European ESOP: The Main Structural Features and Pilot Implementation in Slovenia - CLEO Skip to main content


There has been a great variety of employee ownership models in Europe. Some of the best examples are Marcora in Italy, Sociadades Laborales in Spain, Le FCPE de Reprise in France, and many unregulated ad hoc models set up by individual owners without any institutional support. None of those models, however, offers an effective and systematized tool for business succession. And while the European Commission has been touting ownership succession at the top of the challenges list for the SME sector for the past decade,  Europe continues to lack a universal and functional model for large scale ownership transfers to employees.  Since 2018, the Institute for Economic Democracy in Slovenia has been developing a model based on existing best practices. Influenced by the structural and institutional analysis of EO models globally – particularly the US ESOP – main features have been generalized by using the good features and resolving the flawed features. The outcome is a generic model with a set of universal features, which we call the “European ESOP” or the “Cooperative ESOP”. These features are open-ended enough to be used in devising the national models in Europe but are also narrow enough that the system accounts for the main challenges of the historical and contemporary employee ownership models. The first publication of the model dates back to 2019, when the technical concept was described in a paper published by the European Federation for Employee Share Ownership in Brussels.  Our purpose in this paper is to provide a more concise description of the European ESOP, to compare the European model against the US ESOP, and to give an overview of the pilot implementation in Slovenia, where the Slovenian ESOP – as the national adaptation of the general principles behind the European ESOP – has been implemented for the first time.