How can worker cooperatives inspire Croatian economy?
The economic transition in Croatia in the 1990’s from state to market economy, following the collapse of Yugoslavia, has led enterprises trough complex privatization processes. For many of them this process hasn’t been successful, leaving them in financial and ownership insecurity for more than a decade.
Cooperatives have been existing in Croatia for 150 years, mostly in the agricultural sector. However, they started more recently to develop in other sectors, such as in tourism, renewable energies etc. The creation of social cooperatives providing work integration to disadvantaged groups has been particularly important over the last few years.
A new law on cooperatives entered into force in 2011, with a reference to worker cooperatives but no workers cooperative has been created from that time. Cooperatives in Croatia still suffer from an unfavorable environment, normative limitations and administrative burdens. In this context, on 14 May the Croatian Center for Cooperative Entrepreneurship, organized the conference in the Croatian Parliament ’Worker cooperatives – great opportunity for new jobs’. The purpose of the event was to look at this typology of cooperatives trough European experiences and see how they could be developed in Croatia.
A specific focus was put on workers buyouts, as one of the ways to save jobs and possibly sustain Croatian enterprises still impacted by the transition processes through workers cooperatives. CECOP was invited together with and experts from Coopfond, a cooperative development fund created by Legacoop in Italy, and from CG Scop, the French Confederation of Worker Cooperatives, to share the ingredients of success that allowed some European countries to reach a high level of workers cooperatives development and successful buyouts and businesses transferred to employees.
Around 60 persons from the Croatian Parliament, ministries, trade unions, cooperatives and cooperative organisations, the civil society and universities took part at the event. The President of the Parliament, Mr Josip Leko has underlined the importance of that topic for the Croatian society. The President of the Employment Committee, Mr Silvano Hrelja has declared “if EU losses its artisans, farmers and cooperatives, it will loose its own identity”.
The reactions of the Croatian Parliament representatives about the development of worker cooperatives in Croatia were rather encouraging. During its stay in Croatia, CECOP staff has visited Humana Nova, a social cooperatives based in Cakovac providing labour integration to women with disabilities through the production and selling of textile goods made from recycled fabrics. The cooperative employs 13 people, out of which 11 are worker members, including workers with disability and former unemployed people. This cooperative is part of ACT Grupa, a consortium gathering social cooperatives and NGOs, providing mutual assistance and economic support.