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* The Handicraft Co-operatives represent today a social-economic alternative made by people for their interest, having as scope the amplification of the social solidarity and the mutual help of the cooperators, participating, at the same time, in their local community development. Thus, the main specific characteristics of the sector are integrated: the economic liberty of action, the individual responsibility and the social security.

* The Handicraft Co-operative Sector, based on the private property of the associated craftsmen, has proved for over 130 years its viability and implication in the development of the Romanian economy and society.

* The beginnings of the handicraft co-operatives of Romania date from 1879 when the first organization of this type was founded – „The Shoemakers' Society” (Bucharest).

* The National Union of Handicraft and Production Co-operatives – UCECOM was founded in 1951, being reorganized in 2006 (on the basis of the Law no. 1/2005 concerning the organization and functioning of the handicraft co-operatives), having permanently, since the foundation until now, the role of a representing organization of the handicraft co-operatives, at national and international level.

* According to its present statute, UCECOM was foundedto assure the representation and promotion of the economic, social and cultural interests of the cooperators and associated members in their relations with the public administration, State authorities and other physical and/or legal persons, public or private, with similar international bodies, as well as to sustain and promote the co-operative principles”.

* UCECOM has 526 co-operative entities associated directly or indirectly(co-operative societies, county unions and handicraft co-operative societies associations), totalizing a number of about 19,000 shareholders and, in their great majority, employees of those organizations.

* The handicraft co-operatives activities take place in almost all urban centers of the country, practically covering the whole economic field (about 2,840 units of which: over 400 production units, about 2,040 service units, over 400 commercial units).

* The offer of the co-operative societies stands out by:

- long experience, stable organizing structure and a high level of flexibility of the production units (5 - 450 persons) which are easily adaptable to different types of activity.

- well qualified labor force and a working environment favorable to development collaborations and economic cooperation;

- production and commercial spaces for the development of the economic activities in all the regions of the country.

* Main activities:

- Production of industrial and consumption goods:

textile and knitwear goods: clothes, knitwear, handmade carpets, sportswear, etc.;

leather goods: footwear, working and protection shoes – purses, bags, belts, etc.;

wooden products: small furniture, carved furniture, bear mugs, toys, “sewing boxes”, etc.;

folk art and handicraft: table cloths, embroideries, scarfs, towels, tapestries, wood painted icons, folk dolls, etc.;

glass and ceramic products: ornaments for the Christmas tree, interior decorations, etc.;

metal products: work benches, tools and accessories, garden furniture, tool boxes, etc.;

- Foreign trade: an yearly volume of almost 20 million Euro with 14 countries (mainly inter-community deliveries) of which the most important are Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Great Britain and others;

- Services for the population and third parties: hairstyling and cosmetics, electronics and other goods repairs, car maintenance and repairs, etc.;

- Commercial activity: sale of goods and import – export activities;

- Economic cooperation;

- Professional training:

- At the university level, («ARTIFEX» University, economic profile, with the faculties: Finances and Accountability; Management and Marketing – about 2,600 students);

- at the pre-university level, («SPIRU HARET» Foundation, with 12 school units - a College in Bucharest and high schools in Arad, Baia Mare, Brăila, Breaza, Cluj, Constanța, Craiova, Iași, Odorheiu Secuiesc, Ploiești, Timișoara - about 5,500 students)

- Tourist services and spa treatment in the hotels of Eforie Nord, Mamaia, Covasna and Sovata, belonging to S.C. HEFAISTOS – CM SA, where UCECOM holds 99% of the social capital;

- Advertising and fairs organized by SCM PUBLITER Bucharest;

- Sport activities, by means of the Sport National League «VOINŢA» belonging to the handicraft cooperatives. The cooperators belonging to «VOINŢA» sport clubs win every year titles of Romanian champions, as well as medals at the World and European Championships.

* The Romanian Handicraft Co-operatives are defined by a series of characteristics defining them as an important component of the civil society:

- The handicraft co-operative societies are economic agents capable of generating profit and new working places every year;

- The handicraft co-operatives are one of the little segments of the national economy assuring, in an organized way, stable work places for several hundred disabled persons to whom they offer the chance of a decent work by making products of reduced complexity in special organized or protected units;

- The folk art and the artistic handicrafts represent a mean of promoting Romania in the world by products interlacing the specific tradition and the national creating genius, the handicraft co-operators contributing effectively to the perpetuation of the Romanian popular traditions;

- The social-educational field represents a very important component of the handicraft co-operative sector. Thus, the pre-university and university cooperative education of the handicraft co-operatives has as goal the promotion of the co-operative principles, as well as the large assertion, at national and international level, of this economic and social sector.

* The European Society is in full process of transformation, this process could not being conceived without having in view the co-operative component of each European nation. Europe must strengthen its unity in diversity, and an element of this diversity is the co-operatives, with their particularities.

* The Adhesion of Romania to the European Union was for the handicraft co-operative societies a turning point generated by the direct competition on the same inter-community market with similar products and services. Thus, the handicraft co-operatives have in view:

- Encourage and support a continuous investment process in the handicraft co-operative societies;

- Develop exchanges of experience and documents at the external and internal level;

- Implication in accessing the operational programs financed from the structural and cohesion funds or other inner or foreign sources.

- The development of programs of instruction, assistance and consultancy for the associated members (increase of competences, implementation of the management systems, implementation of sale strategies, technical harmonization and standardization, evaluation of the products conformity, protection of industrial property objects and others);

* Internal Associations: Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (CCIR), General Confederation of the Romanian Industrial Employers (UGIR-1903), Alliance for the Economic Development of Romania (ADER), Committee of the Romanian Distribution (CRD). At the same time, UCECOM is one of the founding organizations of the League for the Promotion of the Co-operative Ideas (LICOOP).

* International Associations: International Co-operative Alliance (ACI), COOPERATIVES EUROPE, International Organization of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers' Co-operatives (CICOPA), European Confederation of Workers' Co-operatives, Social Co-operatives and Social and Participative Enterprises (CECOP), Association «Balkan Bureau of Middle Class».

* International Events Celebration by the Handicraft Co-operatives Sector:

- Starting with 1923, The International Co-operative Alliance (ACI) celebrates every year, on the first Saturday of the month of July, The International Day of Co-operatives, this manifestation being marked since 1995, in the Calendar of Official Events of the United Nations Organization.

- As a recognition of the importance of the co-operatives to the social and economic development, UNO declared the year 2012 as The International Year of Co-operatives;