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SOPHIA, Bulgaria – A press conference by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) marked the beginning of the organization’s second year of a three-year project in Bulgaria, according to Project Director John Keane. The press conference was tied in with International Credit Union Day. There are currently over 100,000 credit union members belonging to 252 institutions in the country. Credit unions in Bulgaria are called kasas. Banks are not willing to deal with small accounts and projects, leaving most Bulgarians with few alternatives. The project is designed to develop financial alternatives through the concepts of self-help, access, growth and trust. The press conference was a chance to remind people through the Bulgarian media that the mission was “to create adequate conditions for Bulgarian saving-credit co-operative financial institutions to provide financial services to their members. The credit co-operatives, through their regional commitment are proved as an important column in the financial sector in many European countries,” Keane said. “Credit Co-operatives are the best long term solutions for micro-financing in Bulgaria. Currently co-operative financial institutions extend micro loans for over 30 million leva.” (One Bulgarian leva is equal to 46 cents US). “In order to fulfil their activity and to reach out more people, the credit co-operatives need adequate legislation,” Keane said. The WOCCU project has the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). There are three key areas of concentration: modernization of the system of mutual kasas, creation of a platform for exchanging knowledge and experience and development of a adequate legislative, regulatory and supervisory mechanism. The ultimate goal of the project is to expand Bulgarian economic and employment opportunities by increasing micro-enterprise and household access to reliable financial services.” WOCCU Bulgaria project partners are 14 mutual and popular kasas and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB). Besides Keane, the following people were present at the conference: Vencislav Tanev, Catholic Relief Services; Plamen Dimitrov, CITUB; Yuri Dudev, Bulgarian Association of the Credit Cooperative Organizations; Petar Arnaudov, Nachal Cooperative, Dimitar Dimitrov, Federation of the Mutual Agricultural Credit Associations of the Private Owners; and Pavel Velev, Ustoi. – [email protected]

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