The public consultation launched by the European Commission could lead to a Statute for a European mutual (look at the article: Rally in favor of a statute for European mutuals!). The creation of this statute is supported by Ipse and many actors, including the European Parliament, in that it could be beneficial for several reasons, in particular for European citizens and the internal market.
Mutual societies’ specificity mainly lies in the fact that they are person-based societies. They operate essentially according to the principle of self-governance, where their members or representatives take part directly in defining the mutual society’s policy or have the right to influence that policy. Mutual societies do not aim to make profit for distribution to external shareholders and are based on individual affiliation and open enrolment. They are non-discriminatory as far as risk selection is concerned, democratically oriented by their members and financed through solidarity, with a view to improving social conditions of local communities and of wider society in the spirit of mutuality.
The Study on the current situation and prospects of mutuals in Europe – conducted by Panteia and published by the European Commission – identified nearly 40 types of mutual organizations present in 23 EU countries.” Today, mutual societies provide social and healthcare services to 230 million European citizens and account for some €180 billion in insurance premiums. Mutuals represent more than two-thirds of insurance companies and employ some 350,000 people in Europe.
Although mutuals are particularly apt to withstand crises, being less vulnerable to risks associated with speculation than are joint-stock insurance providers, they are currently faced with a number of obstacles that impede their development within the single market. Indeed, they suffer from a patent lack of recognition in European legislation, thus burdening them with significant competitive disadvantages, particularly compared to limited liability companies. This lack of recognition can lead these structures to demutualize, thereby forsaking the social, economic and democratic strengths that set them apart. Without greater recognition on the part of European institutions, as well as the tools necessary to create a level playing field with for-profit companies working in the same sectors – social protection, social and healthcare services, insurance, etc. – the very existence of mutuals in the European Union could be severely threatened.
Full support of the European Parliament for a Statute for a European Mutual
Conscious of the importance of mutual societies in Europe and the beneficial added value they provide for European citizens and the internal market, on March 14 the European Parliament adopted a resolution with recommendations for the Commission regarding a statute for a European mutual society (2012/2039 (INI) – Rapporteur: Luigi Berlinguer). In support of this position, the Parliament asked the “European Added Value Unit” to conduct an assessment of a statute for a European mutual society. This assessment claims that a statute for a European mutual society “would:
– give visibility to, and expand the notion of, mutualism across the European Union, thus enhancing economic wellbeing through a more democratic and resilient corporate model;
– allow economies of scale and contribute to the effective implementation of the Single Market by enhancing cross-border services and providing for a regime for the grouping of mutual societies;
– provide greater legal certainty to mutual societies, citizens and economic operators, who would benefit from a uniform, homogeneous set of rules and would save costs;
– contribute to promoting a sound social economy.”
Other types of structures, such as limited liability companies (2001) and cooperative societies (2003) already enjoy a European statute. It would thus be legitimate for mutual societies to enjoy such a statute as well – on a voluntary basis for mutuals wishing to adopt it and under no circumstances mandatory – to provide mutual societies in Europe with adequate tools. Furthermore, the Parliament’s assessment emphasized that, “A statute for a European mutual society would help provide with a clear and uniform regime, expand the mutualist principles of solidarity and democracy as bases of a corporate model, increase market diversification and make insurance markets stronger against crises. It would mean more competition and better prices and conditions for consumers.”
For more infomation :
– European Added Value Assessment : A statute for European Mutual Societies, by the European Parliament (EN/FR/DE/IT)
– The Study on the current situation and prospects of mutuals in Europe (EN)- conducted by Panteia and published by the European Commission