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PARIS – Credit unions in the United States might ask what the European Union (EU) has to do with them. But at the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) fifth annual leadership institute, the lessons learned in forming the European Union can apply to any movement. Both the credit union movements and the formation of the European Union as they are today have been marked by setbacks, successes, learning experiences and constant challenges when trying to bring diverse interests together for the common good. Dr. Albert Bressand, the founder of the French think tank “Promethee”, named by The Economist magazine as one of the 20 good think tanks in the world, called the European Union “a laboratory without borders.” The futurist and economist gave a rundown on the history of the EU’s development in terms of free movements of goods, people, services and currency. Bressand said that although Americans “like to think of Europe as protectionist, we often point out to them that by comparison Europe is actually quite open. Protectionism exists to a great extent in the U.S.,” he said. He cited as an example that Nasdaq was allowed to buy Easdaq. He asked the delegates, “Can you imagine what we could have heard from Washington, had a European exchange bid for Nasdaq?” The nodding heads of the delegates showed he’d hit a strong point. As far as the European Union, Bressand pointed out that four national stock exchanges have merged. Monetary union also brings integrated bond and money market rates and terms. But banking laws still vary. The Euro will have implications against the American dollar The European market was born in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome and expanded to what it is today with 15 countries and many of the former Soviet Block countries such as Poland, Romania, Hungary, Malta, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkey, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria on the list of potential members. It represents a major trading block that impacts the world economy and thus the American economy. If credit unions can have different points of view on what is needed, so can countries. An example that he gave is that the Germans believe the European Union should be a federation, with a senate and congress like in the United States. The French don’t like the “F word” because they are a country where more of the power is concentrated in a legislative branch. Bressand was sure that in time these differences would be resolved. But if newspapers have reported the problems that have taken decades to solve or are still being worked on, other walls have come down. The effectiveness of the International Court of Justice has moved swiftly, allowing citizens to sue their own governments and have their cases heard by a judicial branch. This would be like having another step for an American beyond the Supreme Court on the world front. Speaking to the delegates in almost flawless English, Bressand pointed out that the 12 countries involved in the monetary unity will have a great deal of stability. However it is not a panacea. With different banking regulations in each country, taxation regulations cross country banking is still difficult. “Regulation is the key word. International networks can not go faster than the legislators,” Bressand said. Bressand believes that more integration brings benefits. Each step is another removal of a wall and when economies are integrated, the benefits to the world condition are positive. Fortress is another “F word” that he mentioned. According to Bressand, they are coming down. -

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