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IP/04/1195

Brussels, 8th October 2004

Company law: European Company Statute in force, but national delays stop companies using it

The European Company Statute in theory became available for use on 8 October 2004, over thirty years after it was first proposed by the Commission. A related Directive concerning worker involvement in European Companies entered into force at the same time. However, only six of the 28 EU and EEA Member States have implemented the regulations at national level necessary to allow European Companies to be set up on their territory. Until the rest do so, many companies operating in more than one Member State will be denied the option of being established as a single company under Community law and thus of being able to operate throughout the EU with one set of rules and a unified management and reporting system.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "The European Company Statute makes it easier and cheaper for companies to expand and to manage cross-border operations without the red tape of having to set up a network of subsidiaries. Not only will that encourage more companies to exploit cross-border opportunities, the reduced costs should ultimately lead to downward pressure on prices and boost Europe's overall competitiveness. But this is pie in the sky unless Member States live up to their commitments and put the framework in place to allow European companies to be set up. Until they do that, they are holding their own businesses and the European economy back. That is unacceptable."

Only Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland have so far taken the necessary measures to allow European Companies to be founded on their territory, despite the fact that the European Company Statute was adopted at EU level in 2001 (see IP/01/1376 and MEMO/00/119).

Under the European Company Statute, a European Company can be set up by the creation of a holding company or a joint subsidiary or by the merger of companies located in at least two Member States or by the conversion of an existing company set up under national law.

Under the accompanying Directive on employee involvement, the creation of a European Company requires negotiations on the involvement of employees with a body representing all employees of the companies concerned. If it proves impossible to negotiate a mutually-satisfactory arrangement then a set of standard principles applies, the exact nature of which depends on the format for worker participation in the companies concerned before the European Company was set up.

For the full texts of the Regulation on the European Company Statute and of the accompanying Directive on employee involvement, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/en/company/company/official/index.htm


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