SCE – The Statute of European Cooperative Societies

Research Area: Legal framework
Scientific coordinator: Antonio Fici

Project status: concluded

The SCE project, carried out within the scope of a contract between the European Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry and a consortium composed of Cooperatives Europe, EKAI Center and Euricse, concentrated on two main themes: analysing Regulation 1435/2003 on the Statute for a European Cooperative Society (SCE), its implementation and the impact it has had on legislation in member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein; and examining the national legislation on cooperatives in the 30 countries involved and the promotion of cooperatives in Europe.

Objectives

With reference to the first of the two themes listed above, the project aimed to verify the procedures for implementing the SCE regulation in the involved countries and to gather together the laws that absorb the regulation within the national systems, evaluating the regulation’s level of success or failure, and proposing any potential changes to the regulatory text.
In regards to the national legislation on cooperatives, the objective was to analyse the national cooperative laws of the 30 countries involved, making a comparison both between the different regulatory measures and between these measures and the SCE regulation, dwelling in particular on aspects linked to cooperative identity. The project also explored the existence of legal obstacles to the development of cooperatives in the countries concerned.
To reach these objectives, the consortium brought together a team of researchers composed of at least one national expert per country. They worked under the direction of a scientific committee and a steering committee. In total, over 220 people contributed to the research and 170 stakeholders were consulted by national experts (150 replied to a questionnaire prepared by the consortium and distributed by the national experts).

Main results

The research included a survey of 17 European Cooperative Societies, showing that the SCE Regulation has had limited success. Similarly limited was the harmonization or indirect approximation effect produced on national cooperative legislation. The only partial success of the regulation cannot be attributed only to legal reasons, but also to limited knowledge of the regulation, its lack of utility and the small size of cooperative activities taken into consideration.
More generally, the research highlighted:

  • the limited autonomy of the SCE regulation in regards to national laws;
  • the limited relevance of self-regulation (through SCE statutes). In effect, the SCE regulation and the statutes have a marginal role in the regulation of an SCE, while the national law maintains a predominant position;
  • the complexity of the regulation: little clarity in the definition of the role of every source of SCE law and their interaction, too many ambiguous references to the national law and the category of “options” can become a misleading analytical tool.

The final study and the research results were presented at an international conference held in Brussels on 5 October, 2010, attended by 70 experts from 19 countries and representatives of the European Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry.

Recommendations

  • Simplify the SCE regulation, modifying the system of sources and references to national law and the system of options;
  • Increase the autonomy of the SCE regulation in regards to national law;
  • Increase the power of self-regulation of statutes (governance);
  • Reduce the number of references to national law (through the identification of those aspects that are only of national interest, and leaving all the others, in particular the identity and governance of the SCE, to the regulation);
  • Take into greater consideration the multi-faceted reality of cooperatives.

Successive developments

The European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani, indicated that the Commission would open a public consultation on the results of the study, and would afterwards present a report on the study and the results of the consultation (in 2011). The Commission’s report was presented during an international conference held in Brussels in 2012, the UN International Year of Cooperatives.

Publications

Study on the implementation of Regulation 1435/2003 on the Statute of European Cooperative Societies, Final Study Executive Summary and Part I: Synthesis and comparative report.

Study on the implementation of Regulation 1435/2003 on the Statute of European Cooperative Societies, Final Study Executive Summary Part II. National Reports.

Fici, A., “Pan-European cooperative law: where do we stand?” Euricse Working Paper 47|13. http://euricse.eu/sites/euricse.eu/files/db_uploads/documents/1358347908_n2286.pdf. Available also in Spanish: http://euricse.eu/sites/euricse.eu/files/db_uploads/documents/1358347908_n2286.pdf

Project duration: November 2009 – December 2010

Coordinator: Euricse

Partners: Cooperatives Europe, EKAI Center