World Council’s board of directors gathered recently for our April board meeting in the political capital and heart of Europe: Brussels, Belgium. Also home to the European Union (EU), we spent the next few days there learning all about the European credit union system and how we could help in the face of the EU’s upcoming elections this May.
As soon as we arrived, the city was buzzing with political excitement. Our taxi driver explained as we waited for a motorcade to pass that we had just missed Obama’s visit with EU and NATO allies the week before, but were just in time for the EU-Africa Summit.
We joined forces with representatives of the European Network of Credit Unions (ENCU) for a briefing on the network’s purpose, policy environment and advocacy objectives. We got a better understanding of how challenging, yet important, it is to educate EU policymakers on credit unions: what they are, how they are structured, what services they provide, and the social roles they play in their communities.
We also heard from Brian McCrory, World Council director and Irish League of Credit Unions treasurer, on Ireland’s ENCU membership benefits:
“The most value has been the opportunities to engage directly with members of Parliament to educate them on the credit union model,” Brian said. “There’s so much European legislation that impacts all types of life in the European arena. To have someone here to filter, identify and disseminate legislation that could make an impact on a credit union’s operation is really important.”
Together, we walked down the street to the European Parliament for a meeting with Marian Harkin, an Irish member of European Parliament, vice president of the European Democratic Party and self-described “lifelong supporter of Credit Unions and the important role they play in Irish society.” She gave us useful advice on how to achieve positive credit union legislation:
“You need to talk to as many [members of European Parliament] as you can to raise awareness, especially [amongst members] of the European Commission,” Marian said. “Many of them don’t know what a credit union is.”
For legislation to pass, she said, “Everyone has to be aware.”
As the EU elections draw near, World Council and ENCU will continue to advocate on behalf of Europe’s credit unions to gain support in the EU.
Learn more about the European Network of Credit Unions at www.creditunionnetwork.eu.
Written by Rebecca Carpenter, World Council marketing and communications specialist.