14 Colum. J. Eur. L. 189 (2007 – 2008)

Apostolos Ioakimidis, Principal Administrator, Commission of European Community; member of the Athens Bar Association. This Legislative Development reflects the author’s personal views and does not bind his Institution.

By August 2006, three years after the Council of Ministers’ (Council’s) adoption of the Statute for a European Cooperative Society, which enabled the creation of the European Cooperative Society (SCE), Member States of the European Community should have commenced implementation of appropriate internal legislation allowing the creation of the new European form of enterprise. However, as of October 2007-namely more than one year after the entry into force of the Statute’s regulatory instruments-four Member States out of the twenty-seven have failed to introduced the necessary implementation measures.

The SCE Statute was initially proposed by the European Commission (Commission) in 1992, in the context of its policy to promote “social economy” in Europe. In its current form, the Statute is composed of a Regulation containing rules on the creation of the SCE’s legal entity and of a Directive laying down procedures for management board decision-making within the various SCEs. While the Regulation is self-executing, implementation of the Directive demands the adoption of national legislative and administrative measures in each Member State.

The Statute is a supranational legislation and the SCE is an optional legal form for cooperatives which means that it does not go so far as to replace existing laws governing cooperatives at the national level. Instead, the SCE Statute’s objective is to provide cooperatives, if they elect, with an adequate legal instrument facilitating their cross-border and trans-national activities. However, the SCE Statute is not only of interest to cooperatives, but also provides a legal instrument for companies of all types wishing to group together for their common benefit. Such benefits include improving access to markets, the achievement of economies of scale, and/or the undertaking of research and development activities.

Currently in the European Union, roughly 340,000 cooperatives provide three million jobs and greatly influence the everyday life of more than 140 million EU-wide cooperative members. Cooperatives have a strong tradition dating back to the Industrial Revolution, but they should not be seen as merely a relic of the 19th Century. The importance of the role they play in a particular national economy depends on the historical strength of the cooperative movement in the local and national communities, mainly during the second part of the 20th Century.