The cooperative idea has continually spread both in Europe and worldwide. In Europe, the framework of legal conditions, such as laws, regulations and guidelines is increasingly influenced by EU institutions. For this reason, the work of cooperative associations cannot be restricted to national borders.
As early as the 1960s, national cooperative organisations formed international level sector-specific unions in Brussels, in order to represent their joint interests.
Following the decree of the European Parliament in 1983, the cooperative groups in all sectors created the Coordinating Committee of European Co-operative Associations (Comité de Coordination des Associations Coopératives Européennes/CCACE), operative at EU level, alongside the European Association of Cooperative Banks (Groupement Européen des Banques Coopératives EACB), the General Confederation of Agricultural Co-operatives in the European Union (Confédération Générale des Coopératives Agricoles de l’Union Européenne – COGECA) and the Union of Groups of Independent Retailers of Europe (Union des Groupements de Détaillants indépendants de l’Europe – UGAL). The CCACE has since been responsible for coordinating and representing joint interests and concerns.
Among the associations in existence at international level are the International Raiffeisen Union (IRU) and the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). The principle goals of these globally operative alliances are the promotion and the protection of the cooperative values and principles. They also foster communication between national cooperative organisations and coordinate their international development programmes.