Page 24 - FINAT Yearbook 2019
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                 became personally involved. One of the crown jewels in FINAT in the early years were the FINAT Standard Test Methods, developed by the multidisciplinary Technical Committee. Later this was followed by the Marketing and Converter Committees, all of which were committed to supporting the development of this emerging technology; to encourage and reward quality improvements; to exchange market and technology know-how; and to share industry best practices.
But perhaps more important than this, FINAT had established a cross-border network of label industry peers based on mutual trust and friendship, as well as shared values and beliefs in the joint future of this industry.
In today’s context this may be hard to imagine, but bear in mind that, in the first 25 years of FINAT’s existence, there was no common European market. There was no single currency. English was not yet the commonly-accepted business language. Eastern Europe was still behind an iron curtain. Travel connections were not as convenient and low-cost as they are today. The Internet wasn’t invented. Mobile phones did not exist. Telecommunications technology was still analogue (remember the ‘collect call’?). Typewriters were still used; copying machines did not exist; and the fax machine only emerged during the 1980s. Looking back, it is perhaps more appropriate, therefore, to speak of cross-barrier than cross-border collaboration!
For an association founded under these ‘prehistoric’ circumstances, the importance of establishing profound personal, face-to-face relationships was evident, and the experience of FINAT demonstrates that international business collaboration can be a successful remedy against nationalist political tensions. In that sense FINAT, at industry level, personified Europe’s post-war recovery.
By the time I first became involved in FINAT in the mid 1990s, this recovery had been completed. There had been
developments that would have a lasting impact on the future development of FINAT. In 1989 the Wall had fallen, and Germany was reunified a year later; and almost 15 years later, many of the former eastern bloc countries would join the European Union. The Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992 marked the start of the European internal market, followed ten years later by the introduction of the Euro as the single European currency for the major European economies (the UK excluded). And something called the World Wide Web, also called the internet, had come into play in the early 1990s.
At industry level, the label industry had become well- established in Europe, and national associations had been founded in various countries, bringing in the new dimension of ‘association politics’, which had the effect of slowing down the joint development pace as the national organisations were pushing to turn FINAT into a federation of national organisations rather than an association of companies. It would take until late in the first decade of the new millennium before these tensions subsided and FINAT and the national associations had reached a mutual understanding of their comparative strengths and weaknesses, as well as the complementarity of their areas of competence.
Against this background, I took over from my father as Secretary-General (a job title now renamed ‘Managing Director’) in 1998. His final annual congress took place in Rome in 1997, and my first one was in Istanbul in 1998, followed next year by Prague. FINAT was indeed opening up to the east and, in those days, one of my first trips was to the Poligrafia fair in Poznan, Poland where FINAT held an educational session for the Polish label industry. Together with Bernhard Grob, I also had the honour to be invited to the opening ceremony of the Russian label exhibition Etiketka. My first achievement in FINAT was the development of a FINAT website -- nowadays the starting point for any organization, but in those days still a subject of much debate, as it was felt to reduce FINAT’s ‘exclusivity’.
Today, according to the latest head count, the association embraces over 600 member company facilities in over 50
  FINAT as one of the founders of the L9 global label association community, here at the meeting in New Delhi held in November 2018.

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