Study on the implementation of Regulation 1435/2003 on the Statute for European Cooperative Society

The “SCE project” was carried out in execution of a service contract between the European Commission - DG Enterprise and Industry and a Consortium formed by Cooperatives Europe, EKAI Center, and Euricse, who represented and led the Consortium.

The subject of the contract was “a study on the implementation of the Regulation 1435/2003 on the Statute for European Cooperative Society (Societas Cooperativa Europaea - SCE) in all EU Member States and EEA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein): rules applied to the SCE, national legislation on cooperatives and impact of the Statute on the national legislation and the promotion of cooperatives in EU countries; recommendations for future legislation”.  

The Final study and the results of the research were presented during an International conference held in Brussels on October 5th 2010. The conference was attended by 70 experts from 19 different countries and by representatives of the DG ENTR of the European Commission.
 
 
Objectives of the project
 
The project deals with two major themes:
  • Regulation 1435/2003 on the Statute for European Cooperative Society (SCE R);
  • National cooperative law in all 30 European countries involved in the research.
With regard to the first point the principal objectives were to:
  • Learn whether and to what extent the SCE R has been implemented in the countries involved in the research and to collect all existing laws implementing the SCE R;
  • Evaluate the degree of success or failure of the SCE R;
  • Formulate recommendations for amendments to the SCE R.
With regard to national cooperative law, the main objectives were to:
  • Collect the general cooperative laws of the 30 countries involved in the research;
  • Explore the relevant European national cooperative legislation in order to find out what common rules and principles exist;
  • Compare national cooperative laws and the SCE R with particular regard to the cooperative identity;
  • Ascertain whether and to what extent legal obstacles to the development of cooperatives exist in the countries involved in the research.
To reach these objectives and manage the relevant tasks, the Consortium established a research team including at least one national expert from each country involved, which worked under the direction of both a scientific and a steering committee.
 
In all, more than 220 people have contributed to the research in various ways and to diverse extents, and 170 stakeholders were consulted by national experts during the course of the research (150 of them responded to a questionnaire provided by the Consortium).
 
Main findings and conclusions
 
The research identified 17 existing European Cooperative Societies (SCEs) (as of the 8th of May 2010), showing that the SCE Regulation has had only limited success. This was also demonstrated by the fact that the harmonization effect on national cooperative legislation had also been rather limited. The limited success of the SCE R can be attributed to complex legal causes, but also to the lack of awareness of the Regulation, the lack of need and the small scale of cooperative operations.
 
On the other hand, among the factors with a persuasive effect, the interviewed stakeholders mainly indicated the cross-border nature of the entrepreneurial project or of the membership, democracy and other cooperative principles and the European image.
 
In general the research raised the following points:
  • Results:
- Lack of autonomy of the SCE R from national laws
- Limited relevance of self-regulation (by SCE statutes). De facto, the SCE R and SCE statutes play only a limited role in the regulation of an SCE, while national law holds a central position
- Complexity of the regulation:
     *No clarity in the definition of the role played by each source of SCE law and their interplay
     *Ambiguous references to national law
     *The category of “options” may be a misleading analytical instrument
  •  Problems:
- Mere symbolic value of the SCE R (as long as it remains as is)
- Too many references to national law
- Absence of a single definition of cooperative identity (considering that it is defined in as many ways as there are national coop laws)
- Relationship between European law and national laws in the regulation of cooperatives
- The need for further clarity of the specific objectives of the SCE Regulation
  •  Recommendations:
- Simplify the SCE Regulation by modifying the system of sources and references to national law, including options
- Reinforce the autonomy of the SCE R from national laws
- Reinforce SCE statutes’ power of regulation (governance)
- References to national law should be reduced (by individuating those aspects which are of national interest and leaving all others, in particular SCE core identity and governance, to the SCE R)
- Take the multifaceted reality of cooperatives into greater consideration
 
Outcomes
 
On the basis of the previous description of the research, the main products and results are:
  • a final study;
  • the constitution of a European network of experts in cooperative law; 
In particular, the final study consists of:
  • Executive summary
  • Part I: Synthesis and comparative report;
  • Part II: National reports;
  • Annexes:
- Returned questionnaires from stakeholder consultation
- Collected legislation (also in English)
*SCE laws
*National cooperative laws.
 
Next steps
 
The DG ENTR Commissioner, Mr Tajani, informed the Consortium of the opening of a public consultation on the results of the study as well as the presentation, by the Commission, of a report on the study and the results of the consultation (in 2011). This report from the Commission will be presented during an international conference to be held in Brussels in 2012, which has been declared International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations.
  
For more information, please contact:
 
Prof. Antonio Fici, Scientific Coordinator
 
Chiara Strano, Project Manager
Tel: +39 0461 283658