Regulatory Framework for Cooperatives
In almost all European countries there is a cooperative law. While in some countries there is a general cooperative law that is applied to all business sectors, in some others each economic sector can rely on a dedicated cooperative legislation. Despite their differences, which are mainly due to diverse cultural, economic and historical backgrounds, national cooperative laws share the cooperative values and principles, which is what makes cooperative enterprises different.
At EU level, the article 54 of Treaty on the functioning of the European Union officially recognizes the plurality of business forms. Additionally, in 2003 the European Commission adopted the Regulation on the Statute for the European Cooperative Society, which sets the rules for cooperative enterprises willing to extend their action beyond national borders.
By adopting the SCE statutes, the European Union has officially acknowledged that there are various ways of doing business, which because of their different nature, need treating differently. Cooperatives Europe is however calling for a transversal recognition of the cooperative business model throughout all European policies, from entrepreneurial policy, to competition law.
Revision of the SCE statutes
In compliance with the 2003 Regulation, the Commission will report on the state of implementation of the Regulation to the EU Council and the EU Parliament. To draft this report, the Commission charged the consortium composed of Cooperatives Europe, Euricse and Ekai Center to undertake a study on the implementation of the Regulation. Following the results of the study, the Commission is now consulting major stakeholders and should present the report during the European Conference on cooperatives in Cyprus.
The qualification of cooperative member shares as equity or liability has been an international accounting issue for long time. With the IFRIC 2 interpretation a compromise was reached in 2003; however, the convergence process between IASB and FASB, the two international accounting standards setters, has lead to further discussions.
Altlhough debates on the whole convergence are currently focusing on other items, the reflextion on the cooperative member shares as well as on other norms concerning cooperative enterprises is essential. Cooperatives Europe has an expert working group which is following closely this issue, preparing position papers and defining an advocacy strategy, asking the international accounting standards setters to keep in mind the knowledge of the cooperative issues that they acquired.