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LONDON, U.K. – Mark Lyonnette has been a busy man attending meetings with top United Kingdom and European Union (EU) officials to raise the profile of credit unions. The president of the Association of British Credit Unions’ first meeting was with John McTernan, Tony Blair’s Policy Directorate. Lyonette reported on the progress of the development of various programs to help the financially disenfranchised. Blair’s Labour government has repeatedly called for the development of social programs to help the poor in areas of health, education and finance. Blair repeated this call when he spoke at his party’s annual meeting in Brighton in late September. Credit unions have been called upon by the government to help give more people access to financial services. Lyonette also travelled to Brussels where he was joined by credit union leaders from Poland and Ireland. The goal was to make European Union ministers of Parliament aware of credit union issues and the differences between banks and credit unions that need to be taken into consideration when different directives are created to regulate European financial services. Poland, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England are the only countries in the EU with major credit union movements. Even Germany and France the birthplace of the modern credit union movement do not have credit unions, although co-operative banking was developed from the same seeds that Raiffeisen planted for credit unions. Of all the candidate states for membership in the EU, Romania and Bulgaria have had credit union projects backed by the World Council of Credit Unions. Although the meetings were considered successful, European credit unions plan to stay on top of developments in the European Union and to voice their concern where appropriate.

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