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 Malta. 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).
Cooperatives in Malta are primarily regulated by the 2001 Co-operative Societies Act [Chapter 442 of the Laws of Malta] (‘the Act’). There are no specific laws applicable to any particular sector of cooperatives, but other legal instruments do refer to cooperatives. For example, according to Article 20 of the Constitution of Malta: “The State recognises the social function of co-operatives and shall encourage their development”. Article 12(1)(q) of the Income Tax Act [Chapter 123 of the Laws of Malta] also notably exempts the income of cooperatives from payment of income tax.
The ICA Principles are explicitly referred to in Section 21(2) of the Act. However, a further subsection (3) states that these principles are not directly enforceable in any court or tribunal but shall be adhered to in the interpretation and of the Act and any regulations made under it.
Maltese cooperative legislation can be considered to be friendly towards cooperatives to a significant degree. There are no precise legal obstacles deriving from specific regulations or other sources of law which hinder the advance and promotion of the cooperative movement in Malta. Unfortunately, promotion of cooperative societies is a function largely left to the societies themselves which, due to limited budgets, fail to really promote the cooperative movement in Malta. There are hardly any incentives for cooperatives in existing legislation other than the exemption of cooperatives from the income tax.
The national expert supports reforms which would allow limited liability companies to set up or join cooperatives as members, arguing that the cooperative movement in Malta would benefit from experience and investment from these businesses. Another recommendation is simplifying the procedural requirements which cooperatives need to follow in order to change their statutes. The national expert further highlights Section 17 of the CCF regulations which result in 5% of a cooperative’s surplus being administered by a committee made up of a majority of Government nominated individuals. A return to the situation prior to 2016 where cooperatives had full control of the funds they contributed is therefore recommended. Finally, it is recommended that provisions covering dissolution and amalgamations of cooperatives be reformed as they are currently rather concise.
Although the Act adequately caters for the proper functioning of cooperatives in Malta and provides a certain level of flexibility, the national expert believes that a number of areas for potential amendment remain that could encourage the development of cooperatives.
The legal frameworks analysis is a tool developed under the ICA-EU Partnership #coops4dev. It is an overview of the national legal frameworks at the time of writing. The views expressed within are not necessarily those of the ICA, nor does a reference to any specific content constitute an explicit endorsement or recommendation by the ICA.