Linking the trade registers of the 27 member states, and thus facilitating access for all interested parties to the information they contain, is a must for the European Parliament, Council and Commission alike. This is the goal of the proposal for a directive presented by the EU executive on 28 February. The text is now in the hands of the Council and the Parliament. Once adopted, it will enter into force on 1 January 2014.
These registers contain information on a company's legal form, registered office, capital and legal representatives. Such information is important for consumers, existing or potential business partners and public administrations. With the development of cross-border activities, such as mergers, transfers of registered offices, relocations and insolvency procedures, the question of linking the different national registers and harmonisation of their content becomes all the more important.
NEED FOR INTERCONNECTION
Trade registers are organised today at national level (in Sweden, Ireland and Denmark), regional level (Austria) or even local level (Germany) and do not provide uniform up-to-date information on companies. This lack of transparency on companies from other member states obliges professionals (lawyers, notaries, tax specialists, etc) and third parties to carry out costly and complicated research member state by member state to collect data on a company or its subsidiaries. The Commission estimates the cost of the absence of interconnection of the different registers at 69 million a year.
Some cooperation already exists between registers - the European Business Register (EBR), Business Register Interoperability throughout Europe (BRITE) and the Internal Market Information system (IMI) - but is not satisfactory at this stage. First, because certain states do not participate - doing so is voluntary - and second because the costs of consultation, lengthy procedures, technical and language problems and the absence of indication of the legal value of information released in different member states make these limited forms of connection unsuited to the needs of professionals.
On 5 November 2009, the Commission launched a consultation with a green paper that outlines different strategic options, accompanied by an interim report that assesses existing cooperation mechanisms between trade registers and with other authorities. Almost all the contributions acknowledged the need for better interconnectivity among the 27...