Societas Europaea : Analysis of adoption and practical functioning
Due to constant expansion of the European Community, the harmonization in the fields of European company law and development of internal European market have emerged into considerably bigger and more complex issues. Aspects of corporate mobility, having a direct simultaneous connection to the right of freedom of establishment, have been one of the most problematic spheres for reaching international consensus. Despite numerous directives adopted by Member States (MS) European undertakings continue to be regulated by national legislations. The idea of a common European limited liability company, sc. Societas Europaea (SE), was put into process of realization in order to facilitate the internal trade and to help multinational companies to obtain legal certainty and trans-European character by rising above the variety of national legislations. Furthermore, the SE was to make cross-border enterprise management more flexible and less bureaucratic and to help improving the general competitiveness of Community enterprises.
The process of formation of the European Company Statue took over forty years and the result of the final adoption turned out to be something completely different from the es-sential idea of the European Company. Due to the historical, socio-political and legal dif-ferences MSs had difficulties with compromising on the majority of aspects and instead of one common SE form, the Community had basically adopted 28 different alternatives, loosing the original valuable supranational character. The strongest advantage of the SE are the rights conferred to it by the Regulation. The frequent use of renvoi technique undermines this aspect of SE’s precedence over national legislation. The true potential of the European Company remains thus highly theoretical and the current shape of the SE presents only a weak alternative to the national corporate forms of the MSs.
A European Company cannot be freely incorporated solely by investment of private capi-tal. There is a need for existence of at least two legal enterprises which furthermore must fall under the scope of different national legislations. In other words in order to create an SE, the definite cross-border element between companies at hand must be visible or can be identified. It can be formed by means of merger, creation of a holding, incorporation of a subsidiary or conversion. The subscribed capital for the SE shall at its minimum equal €120 000. The Council Regulation on SE provides a flexible management regime, permit-ting companies to choose between two administration systems (one-tier/two-tier) that exist in the Community. The issues of employee involvement are regulated in separate directive that is a supplement to the Regulation.
Despite the recent developments of freedom of establishment through the case-law, the matter remains utterly complicated. The SE may seem on one hand as a logical solution, being able to incorporate in different MSs, to merge or to form a holding without burden-some processes of winding-up and re-incorporation. On the other hand the Regulation re-stricts the mobility of the SE by provisions prohibiting location of registered and head of-fice of the company in different MSs, depriving it thus from one of the basic Community freedoms. Prudent attitude to mobility and aspiration to protect national interests have partly diminished essential advantages of the SE. It appears to be impossible to conduct business in one MS while being registered in another. Possible amendments are awaited shortly, but so far the SE has definitely not achieved many of practical goals considering mobility and has fulfilled very few of its important theoretical expectations.
National perspective on the adoption of the SE seems to be relatively positive, accepting the theoretical advantages of corporate mobility, options of structure and management and possibility to obtain an essentially European trademark. However, there is also an amount of skepticism addressed to deficient practical functioning due to the lack of uniform legislation. European organizations and companies tend to have a slightly more cautious and restrained approach. The idea of a European Company is praised more for its genuinely European character. Representatives for established SEs prefer to talk about internationalization of trade, European recognition, enhanced competitiveness and market integration, while very little speaks about the true practical potential. The SE is furthermore often observed as a useful but still mainly theoretical legal instrument, playing an indispensable part in the overall development of European company law.
Political motives seem to be considerably heavier while discussing the question of necessity of adoption that later attracted so little interest. Additionally, the basic idea of the SE also seems to include definite measures for general European unification, granting SE the symbolic value of commonly European enterprise. Consequently, failing in purely practical application in the absence of a clear need for common limited liability company, the SE has its theoretical and crucially important socio-psychological purposes.
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