Co-operative societies across borders: the hurdles and limitations

Back in 2007, several friends and I living in London were already determined to do something to address what we saw as a potentially catastrophic lack of imagination in alternative ways of living. We wanted to form an association which would be run on democratic principles, would be open to everyone throughout Europe and indeed beyond, and, most importantly to us, would be transnational in its operations, activities and decision-making.

Many of us were from different European countries, had come to London for one reason or another, and did not know how long we would stay. Several of us lived between London and another European city: we didn’t consider our lives divided by national borders which can be crossed more or less freely, and we didn’t want an association that would be divided in this way either. We wanted to form a co-operative association you could be part of no matter where you moved in Europe.

That the organisation should be run on co-operative principles, in particular that it should have voluntary and open membership, should be run by its members democratically, should be independent, work with like-minded organisations and promote the education of its members and general public, were all relatively easy decisions to take. We saw these principles as the bare minimum for an association wanting to promote a different kind of way of living together in Europe and promote our overarching goals of «democracy, equality and culture beyond the nation-state».

Much more difficult was to decide on an appropriate legal structure, for one simple reason: almost all legal structures available to us are nationally bounded; they have to be located in one nation state or another, and cannot move from that nation state once they are formed.

More information: The Guardian