This section provides an overview of the European company law directives which have been passed to date. It also provides a more detailed discussion of those directives with provisions for worker information, consultation and participation, as well as current proposals for directives which would have particular significance for worker involvement. It also contains information on other issues in European company law, such as the European Cooperative Society or the European Private Company (SPE). Both have significant implications for employees’ rights.
Overview of Directives
Directive on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies (2005/56/EC) Cross Border Mergers
The cross-border merger (or CBM) directive was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 26 October 2005. The main objective of the directive is to make it easier to merge companies across European borders. It should be noted that the worker involvement provisions in the directive are weaker than those provided by the European Company (SE) legislation.
Directive on Takeover Bids (2004/25/EC) Takeover Bids
The 13th Company Law Directive (2004/25/EC, adopted 21.04.2004) regulates bids to take over companies listed on a stock markets. The main goal of the directive is to encourage takeovers in Europe by creating a legal framework for takeover bids, while at the same time providing minimum standards of protection for minority shareholders, and in theory other parties, such as employees.
Cross-border Transfer of the Registered Offices of Limited Liability Companies (proposed 14th Company Law Directive) Transfer of seat
The goal of the proposed 14th Company Law Directive is to create a mechanism for companies to transfer their place of registration to another EU Member State. Until now such an action was either not possible or required the company to be liquidated in its country of origin before it could be re-founded with a registered office in the new country. The Directive would make it possible, for example, for a German GmbH to transfer its registered office to the UK, and at the same time transform itself into a UK Ltd. That means that after the transfer of the registered office the company is organised by UK company law and no longer by German company law.
European Private Company (SPE)
European Company (Societas Europaea, SE) European Company (SE)
European Cooperative Society (Directive 2003/72/EC) European Cooperative Society
The European Cooperative Society (SCE) aims to reduce existing cross-border obstacles for cooperatives and to make it easier for them to operate across European borders. The SCE thereby complements the legislation on European Companies (SE) which has enabled companies to set up as a European public limited company. As in the case of the SE, the SCE legislation consists of a Regulation on the Statute for an SCE (1435/2003) and an accompanying Directive on worker involvement (2003/72/EC). The Regulation came into force from 18 August 2006, by which date the member states also had to transpose the Directive into national law.
European Company Statute
The European Commission has started the review of the European Company Statute as foreseen in Art. 69 SE of the SE Regulation. The Commission shall forward to the Council and the European Parliament a report on the application of the Regulation and proposals for amendments, where appropriate. In this section we follow-up the discussions and proposals with regard to a possible revision of the SE legislation.
History of the European Company statute (ECS) History
The table provides an overview of the more than 40-year-long history of the European Company. This delay was caused by a deadlock in the Council of Ministers where unanimity was required. Resistance arose also on the question of board-level representation of employees. Objections were raised by "both sides": While countries with strong systems of board-level representation (like Germany or Austria) feared a weakening of their national systems, countries with rather weak - or even non-existent - board-level representation (like the UK and Spain) were afraid of importing something that is unknown to their industrial relations systems.
Table of national transposition of the European Company Statute
Transposed on time (8 October 2004)
Transposed since October 2004