The ECPMF was established as an independent non-profit European Co-operative Society (SCE), supported by the Co-operatives Association (Genossenschaftsverband) in Germany. An SCE is a quite new and interesting form of organisation with great potential for our future work. Under the terms of our Statute, anyone or any organisation who agrees with the aims of the ECPMF, works professionally in the media and promises to keep the rules in the Codex can become a member.
Interview Bernhard Brauner, Co-operatives Association, Germany
What role did you play in the founding process of the ECPMF?
The founding of a co-operative follows certain rules of law. In particular the new organisation has to become a member of a certified co-operatives association that has to examine whether the new member in the co-operatives landscape will follow the regulations. So the ECPMF became a member of our association (Genossenschaftsverband). I worked as an advisor and chair of the founding assembly and helped the ECPMF to get off to a good start.
How did you find the founding process of the ECPMF?
The preparation of the founding provided by the staff of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig was excellent and very professional. It was great to see two dozen founding members from many different European countries coming to Leipzig to set up a pan-European co-operative on the very important matter of press freedom. I was most impressed by the direct phone call to Russia during the founding assembly. All in all, it was a very promising start.
What are the advantages of a co-operative compared to other forms of organisation?
First of all, co-operatives do not focus on profit maximisation but they work on behalf of, and to promote, their members. A co-operative is strictly democratically organised and everybody has their responsibilities. A change of membership is easy and can be realised without too much formal effort. Last but not least, co-operatives are very much protected from insolvency because they are constantly scrutinised.
Which other principles does a co-operative follow?
A timeless co-operative principle is to help the individual member by collective action. Co-operatives are self-organised and thus could work without influence from others. But it is also a very lively organisational form and almost like in a family: everybody has a self-responsibility but also a joint responsibility for the other members.
How many co-operatives do we have worldwide and in which sectors are they popular?
Co-operatives exist worldwide with more than 800 million members. In the European Union we have now more than 300.000 cooperatives with more than 140 million members. Statistically, in Germany every fourth citizen is a co-operative member – more than 20 million! The main sectors for co-operatives are banking, agriculture, trade and services.
The ECPMF is a European Cooperative Society (SCE), a quite new form only established in 2006. Why was there a need for it?
The European Parliament requested a European co-operative following the ‘flagship’ of a European stock corporation (SE). But the development process took quite a while: actually, from the mid-1960s until the 18th of August 2006. The idea was to establish a new legal form that has a special cross-border character and is more than just a national co-operative. But still we do not see many SCEs as most of the co-operatives are working nationally or regionally, depending on their mission. Obviously the Europeanisation process of co-operatives is still quite slow. There are not even any statistics at the moment. Therefore, every new SCE is very important for the whole process.
How does the foundation of a SCE work in practice?
To establish an SCE one needs at least five founding members from at least two member countries of the European Union. Every SCE needs a share capital of 30.000 Euro. The drafting of a statute and a business plan is crucial. When the documents are ready, a founding assembly takes place where the boards are defined. From this moment on the co-operative is allowed to name itself „co-operative in the process of being established“. After its entry in the register of co-operatives it is fully recognised as a legal entity. The time periods for the whole process differ but generally it takes some months until the registration is complete.
Has every member the same rights in the ECPMF – no matter if it is a single journalist or a big publishing house?
It depends on the regulations in the statute. In the case of the ECPMF, every member has the same rights and duties, therefore only one vote in the general assembly - no matter how big or influential the member is. The co-operative follows the simple majority principle for its decision-making processes. Thus a member can only act together with the others, and at the same time a single member or a minority is not able to dominate the co-operative. To enquire about membership of the ECPMF please contact email@example.com
by Katharina Mikulčak, press officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom