Prelate priest Ireneusz Skubiś talks to the senator Grzegorz Bierecki – a creator and founder of Cooperative and Saving Credit Unions in Poland

FR. INF. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - What life consequences of the regulation by the Finance Ministry can be, which concern cooperative credit unions?

SENATOR GRZEGORZ BIERECKI: - It is a very harmful regulation for financial unions. It is an attempt of unification of rules of functioning of banks and cooperative credit unions, by imposing very restrictive procedures on credit unions, and, at the same time, taking away the possibility of using many legal rights from financial unions, which the bank law gives to commercial institutions. So, it is unequal treating and a symptom of discrimination towards financial unions, which are social institutions, responding to the needs of different social groups. It happened well that this problem was noticed by the Office of the Protection of Competition and Consumers, addressing this question in this issue to the Finance Ministry. Now we are waiting for the explanations from Minister Roztowski.

– Why is the Polish government aiming so much at imposing additional duties on credit unions (let’s remind that not long time ago the Constitutional Tribunal was engaged in the law project about credit unions – regulations which were considered by it, it acknowledged them as incompatible with the basic law? What’s more, why are additional burdens imposed on Polish financial institutions, and not on banks which are, after all, companies deriving from foreign corporations?

– This question should be addressed to the present government. For, there is a strange fact that instead of supporting Polish institutions based on the national capital and national tradition, the Polish government is doing a lot to strengthen foreign private capital from the money of Polish tax-payers. In this way foreign financial institutions are supported, which caused the worldly crisis a few years ago. And it is not so at all that similar practises are applied in other European countries. For example, the government of Great Britain is supporting its credit unions, that is, equivalents of Polish credit unions, maintaining its own capital in the British hands. It is similar in USA or Australia.

– Why is the government intervening in the institutions which resisted the crisis, and also it agrees on financing the banks which stop being stable and are the source of other waves of crisis?

– Such actions are incomprehensible for the whole cooperative environment. A lot is said about supporting Polish enterprises, about creating new legal regulations which aim at strengthening the position of Polish institutions. This regulation in no respect confirms these assumptions, for it has an opposite result in the form of destroying and discriminating social institutions based on voluntary – self-assistance action. It is not all. It is an evidence for actions contradictive with the national interest, especially that there is not another such a country in Europe where – like in Poland – the definite majority of banks would be in the hands of the foreign capital. And how it can end is shown by the example of Greece.

– Is it natural to support foreign institutions? Where does this trend result from?

– Supporting foreign institutions only allegedly gives the sense of safety. At the present economic situation of financial markets, it is not difficult to notice that the national capital is a stable pillar, which is proved by credit unions. So, it is worth asking the question who and why cares about causing a situation when national financial markets will connect with foreign financiers. It is not only against the interest of a particular society but also against the common sense. Its results are seen on the example of the pension reforms and foreign insurance societies connected with it which were to guarantee our assured and stable means, and, in fact, there is no certainty that they will be like it was assured when these big foreign consortiums were entering the Polish market years ago.

– Credit unions are cooperative institutions – an alternative for banks, which threatens to consumers when they will be deprived of alternative financial system (of credit unions and service to people who might have a problem with the access to bank services)?

– The idea of credit unions is dedicated, first of all, to more modest participants of the financial markets. Its service is used by Poles who are not attractive to commercial institutions. Thanks to the credit unions, Poles can use cheap financial services accessible for every pocket, which they would be deprived of without the existence of the credit unions. The credit unions are only engaged in the fight against the financial exclusion. If they were not in the market, millions of Poles would be forced to pay for services which they simply cannot afford, which would lead to a debt loop. It might push many people into the claws of usury. On the other hand, the existence of the credit unions prevents from monopoly practices. The competition somehow enforces the applying of service and product prices. Other participants of the market must reckon with us.

– At the same time, despite other ‘regulations’, the credit unions are developing. What are further plans of the development of the credit unions?

– Despite the attempts of bringing harm to the credit unions, the financial unions not only showed that they are resistant to the crisis but are also developing quickly, prove the justification of functioning of financial services on the market, helping nearly 2,5 million of households for 20 years. We will still be preparing products adjusted to the needs of Poles and those which our members cannot simply afford. We do not forget about financial education, learning to maintain household and wise skill of managing family budgets. We are trying to meet postulates of our members, hence every year we become more modern. Since the beginning of our activity we have been sticking to the most important rule: cheap, good services for every pocket.


"Niedziela" 14/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: