Home / Droit des sociétés et gouvernance / Company Law

European Company Law

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.


Directive on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies (2005/56/EC)

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)

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)

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.

Société privée européenne (SPE)

Depuis l’adoption de législation relative à la SE, l’idée de créer une société européenne destinée aux petites et moyennes entreprises (PME) a fait son apparition dans le débat politique. En 2002, un groupe de haut niveau d’experts du droit des sociétés mis sur pied par la Commission européenne a proposé la création de la Société privée européenne ou Societas Privata Europaea (SPE). En 2003, la Commission a adopté une proposition correspondante, qui a été suivie d’une proposition de règlement du Conseil relatif au statut de la société privée européenne (SPE). Mais, vivement critiquée de toutes parts, cette proposition a rapidement connu des difficultés. Certaines des critiques les plus virulentes sont venues de la CES et de ses membres, qui craignent que cette forme juridique puisse être utilisée par les entreprises dans le but d’échapper aux règles nationales sur l’implication des travailleurs. Les questions de la séparation entre le pays d’origine et le pays d’accueil, les exigences minimales en matière de capital et la fiscalité restent controversées parmi les États membres.

Société européenne (Societas Europaea, SE)

La société européenne (SE) enrichit l'implication obligatoire des travailleurs au niveau européen de nouvelles facettes, notamment en introduisant - c'est une première - des droits de participation aux conseils des entreprises. Depuis le 8 octobre 2004, il est possible de créer une société européenne (SE). Le principal objectif du statut de la SE (CE 2157/2001) est de permettre aux entreprises de mener leurs activités par-delà les frontières européennes dans le même cadre juridique. Un élément important de cette nouvelle forme de société est l'instauration, par le biais de la directive sur la SE (2001/86/CE) qui est lui associée, de négociations obligatoires sur l'implication des travailleurs dans les SE, ce qui inclut la question de la représentation des travailleurs au conseil.

European Cooperative Society (Directive 2003/72/EC)

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.