Belgium

338

6.846

400.000

Belgium

 

The legal framework analysis aims to provide general knowledge of the national cooperative legislation and of its main characteristics and contents, with particular regard to those aspects of regulation regarding the identity of cooperatives and its distinction from other types of business organisations, notably the for-profit shareholder corporation.

It aims to evaluate whether the national legislation in place supports or hampers the development of cooperatives, and is therefore “cooperative friendly” or not, and the degree to which it may be considered so, also in comparison to the legislation in force in other countries of the ICA region, or at the supranational level.

In addition, the research aims to provide recommendations for eventual renewal of the legal frameworks in place in order to understand what changes in the current legislation would be necessary to improve its degree of “cooperative friendliness”, which is to say, to make the legislation more favourable to cooperatives, also in consideration of their specific identity. This webpage presents a snapshot of the legal framework analysis results for Belgium. Prior to the completion of the research on key figures, the statistics available above are sourced from The Power of Cooperation – Cooperatives Europe Key Figures (2015).

 

 

In 2019, the Belgian legislator implemented a radical reform of legislation applicable to cooperatives by introducing the Belgian Code of Companies and Associations (CCA) which fully entered into force in January 2020. The new Code contains, along with new rules for companies, the main legal rules applicable to cooperatives, certain rules relating to European Cooperative Societies (SCE), and further rules applicable to ‘accredited cooperative societies’.

 

With the introduction of the new code, the intention was to reserve the form of cooperative society to entities based on the cooperative model and to introduce a definition inspired by the 2003 EU Regulation introducing SCEs. Despite this novel modification, no article of the CCA expressly requires compliance with the ICA Principles. In practice, the concrete effect of the reference to the ICA Principles is therefore limited, with much left to the articles of association in accordance with the specific context of the cooperative.

 

Cooperative friendliness

Although significant scope for improvement for the new CCA remains, contributing member organisations and the national legal experts suggest that it is a positive step forward for cooperatives when compared with the old law, and they overall consider it to be ‘partially cooperative friendly’.

 

Key recommendations for improvement 

According to the legal experts, one main problem remaining in the new CCA is the limited access to financing instruments for cooperatives. Amending this limitation is necessary in order to expand access to financing for cooperative societies. Another recommendation concerns the accreditations available to cooperatives, which should be further clarified and differentiated due to the similarities between them. Changes to the requirements, specific consequences and incentives for each accreditation could therefore be considered. In addition, contributing member organisations support the existence and further facilitation of workers’ cooperatives.

 

Conclusions

The main change introduced by the new Belgian CCA was the revised definition of the cooperative society. The new definition aims at limiting the use of the cooperative form to enterprises inspired by the cooperative model, whilst at the same time, introducing provisions relating to its purpose, organisation and the relationship with its shareholders. The latter is expected to reduce the number of “pseudo” or “false” cooperatives and strengthen the commitment of existing and new cooperatives to the cooperative ideal.

 

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