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Setting up a Company in the EU to become easier

EU company law is being updated to reflect the digital age. The Council today adopted a directive that facilitates and promotes the use of online tools in the contacts between companies and public authorities throughout their lifecycle.

The directive will provide improved online procedures, creating a modern and safe way for businesses to dismantle the obstacles involving setting up companies, registering their branches or filing documents, especially in cross border operations.

Ana Birchall, Minister of Justice, Vice Prime Minister for the implementation of Romania’s strategic partnerships, interim

The new rules ensure that:

  • companies are able to register limited liability companies, set up new branches and file documents in the business register fully online;
  • national model templates and information on national requirements are made available online and in a language broadly understood by the majority of cross-border users;
  • rules on fees for online formalities are transparent and applied in a non-discriminatory manner;
  • fees charged for the online registration of companies do not exceed the overall costs incurred by the member state concerned;
  • the ‘once-only’ principle applies, meaning that a company will only need to submit the same information to public authorities once;
  • documents submitted by companies are stored and exchanged by national registers in machine-readable and searchable formats;
  • more information about companies is made available to all interested parties free of charge in the business registers.

At the same time, the directive sets out the necessary safeguards against fraud and abuse in online procedures, including control of the identity and legal capacity of persons setting up the company and the possibility of requiring physical presence before a competent authority. It maintains the involvement of notaries or lawyers in company law procedures as long as these procedures can be completed fully online. It also foresees exchange of information between member states on disqualified directors in order to prevent fraudulent behaviour.

The directive does not harmonise substantive requirements for setting up companies or doing business across the EU.

ECJ rules EU and Canada trade agreement follows EU laws

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU follows EU laws. The court decision was requested by Belgium and was focused on the section of CETA that concerns resolution of investment disputes between investors and states.

CETA will establish a Investment Court System (ICS) to handle disputes between investors and states. The system will include a Tribunal, an Appellate Tribunal, and a multilateral investment tribunal. The Tribunal will include 15 members: five from Canada, five from EU member states and five from third countries.

Belgium filed the request for a decision from the ECJ because the ECJ has exclusive jurisdiction over the definitive interpretation of EU law. The ECJ found that CETA did not violate this principle as long as the CETA Tribunals do not attempt to interpret EU laws.

Belgium was also concerned that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism would violate the EU’s principle of equal treatment in regards to treatment of a suit raised by a Canadian investor against an EU enterprise. The ECJ found that the equal treatment provision is not violated for a non-EU investor making a suit against an EU member state. The ECJ also found that EU law permits annulment of a fine by an EU member state if the CETA Tribunal finds a defect.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights also gives the right of access to an independent tribunal, which Belgium believed may be violated by the establishment of the CETA Tribunal. The concern was based on the fees and costs associated with the Tribunal which may make it difficult for small enterprises to bring a claim. The Commission has committed to providing co-financing for small and medium-sized entities before the Tribunal. The ECJ found these commitments to be sufficient to meet EU law.