The Birth of an Association

It was on the 1st of April 2005, in Strasbourg, that UDITE launched the initiative for a new approach of public risks. It was felt necessary that CEOs were better supported on the emerging risks within their cities and villages. A new management approach was needed. In our venue near Place Kléber in this beautiful city, we were very convinced. And we should act. The meeting was organised by the Danish President of UDITE Allan Vendelbo. There was strong support from the European Institute of Risk Management (EIRM) in Copenhagen with mr. Peter Sylow in charge and from Marsh and McLennan Europe by mr. Philippe Auzimour. That evening the plan to work out the idea for a Public Risk Management Organisation was accepted by a group of involved city managers as something which could be very valuable for the development of our profession: first adviser of politics and government, final responsible person for municipal organisations and process architect pur sang.

As a first step that first year PRIMO Danmark was founded. It was later  accompanied by the first seminar about risk management in the public sector. All kind of views were brought up and recognised by practitioners and experts at the Public Risk conference in Copenhagen, November 2005. And although the conference offered no straight answers to the questions, the importance was clear to everybody. The conference confirmed that we were on the right track: risk management should be part of the organisations decision-making on the strategic level and could not be reduced to a way of cutting costs or seen as  a question of insurance. It was Allan Vendelbo who emphasised the importance of sharing experiences between European neighbours, and learn from their experiences. We discovered that there were so many examples of the positive impact of risk management on a day-to-day basis in municipalities. It lead to a common awareness that something was going on in our societies and that we as CEOs had an important role to play.

In the UDITE Malta Conference in 2006 the key question was raised how to organise this new idea of public risk management and how to secure its development on a European level. Should it be developed country by country? Or was there something we have in common, despite our differences in history and culture? Was there added value for an European approach? It was clear in Valetta, where Adrian Mifsud took over the UDITE presidency, that the initiative of PRIMO had European potentials, and that more countries where interested to step aboard. Beside Denmark, also in the Netherlands and France progression had been made. Malta itself felt the necessity in their development of the municipalities. So how could all these confessions, discoveries and questions on this beautiful island possibly fit together with this new idea which we had? It was President Adrian Mifsud who gave the impulse to discover the potentials of an European umbrella organisation, closely related to UDITE.

Intense preparations in the autumn and winter 2006 /2007 lead to the proposal that PRIMO Europe could be established as a pan-European umbrella organisation with National Chapters in Europe. It was decided that this should be the way to go rather than the original plan to create a North European and a South European association. After all, there is just one Europe. The aim was to disseminate knowledge of modern risk management practices between European public sector managers and to support them in their daily decision-making on risk management issues.

Adrian Mifsud concluded that PRIMO should set on for a new direction, respecting Northern and Southern regions of Europe.

Later that day, during the de first board meeting of the new association, a president (Jack Kruf, Netherlands),  a vice president (Gérard Combe, France), a general secretary (Soteris Messios, Cyprus), a treasurer (John O’Dea, Malta) and a co founder (Ronny Frederickx, Belgium), were appointed. In april 2006 in Dublin, PRIMO Europe was born. The founding act was signed by EIRM, Marsh and UDITE.

Three months later in Malta a congress was organised in close cooperation with the Maltese Local Managers Organisation ATAM in June. PRIMO Malta was founded. During the summer we  also founded PRIMO Cyprus.

In our second board meeting that summer in Madrid, we decided about the business plan “Building Trust”, communication- and marketing plan, scientific council and the contours of our member and financial administration. Later that year, on the 6th of December, we became a formal establishment as an international association under Belgian Law. With our office, based in Brussel, we had a lift-off.

In 2008 we established new partnerships and invested in the preparation for the next step of the organisation. We had a round table in Paris together with PRIMO France and Cardiff with UDITE and supported the second National Congress of PRIMO Nederland and a debate in PRIMO Vlaanderen. We invested in our organisation and financial position and invested in product development to make the next step possible.

In 2009 we launched our new website, house style, and this Magazine. We discussed with Luc Van den Brande (chairman of the Committee of the Regions) a possible European approach. We organised a round table in  Amsterdam (with Marsh and Ernst & Young), a risk debate in Bournemouth (with Alarm, Marsh and RMP). We launched with Marsh our European Risk Survey Report and had a round table in Brussels in October, where we also handed out our first European Risk Award together with UDITE.

In 2010 we have even more plans to improve our organisation. But it is only thanks to persons as Allan Vendelbo, Peter Sylow, Philippe Auzimour, Finn Kjaer Jensen, , Jack Kruf, Adrian Mifsud, Ronny Frederickx, Gérard Combe, Soteris Messios, John O’Dea, Jan Breyne, Kaz Janowicz, Peter Young, Byron Davies, Ed Mallens and Tom Wustenberghs that we are were we are now. Without the dedicated support from Suzanna Nielsen, Marlen Marfeld Mouritz, Catherine Zijlstra, Marieke de Kort, Inge Sebregts, Amy Hedger, Sabrina Baker and Karl Vanderplaetse it would have been impossible to develop what we have developed now. We are a young and dynamic association in the very heart of our societies and its management.
PRIMO celebrates it first lustrum.