The European Commission (the Commission) has adopted a proposal for a Directive to link business registers within Europe.
Each of the 27 Member States has a business or company register which contains information such as a company's legal form, its seat, capital and legal representatives. The proposal to link and inter-connect this information across Europe is designed to facilitate companies when setting up branches, conducting cross-border trade or providing cross-border services in the EU.
The Commission has highlighted the fact that although each Member State has a register, they differ in their structure. In Ireland, Sweden and Denmark, registers are maintained at a national level, whereas in Austria they are maintained at a regional level and at a local level in Germany. The Commission said that although some cooperation already exists, accessing company information from another Member State can be a slow and difficult process and translations are often unavailable. The proposal aims to streamline this information and make it easily accessible electronically.
Under the proposal, a "unique company identifier" will be used, allowing a registered entity to be identified by a number that is unique at EU level. The Commission describes this as a necessary component of the project making it easier to track companies in cross-border situations through centralised searches by electronic systems. The unique company identifier will not change the registration numbers in the national business registers, but will be composed of the national registration number with an international prefix.
The Commission have also explained that the proposal does not create a central EU database. Instead it favours a decentralised model that relies on the capacities of existing national business registers and better cooperation between them.
The proposal will now pass to the Member States and the European Parliament for their consideration.