European Commission plans to ensure pensions are adequate, safe and sustainable in the future will be overshadowed by the potential impact of applying Solvency II regulations to pensions, according to the National Association of Pension Funds.
Darren Philp, director of policy at the NAPF, welcomed aspects of the EC proposals, which were unveiled on Thursday in a white paper, An agenda for adequate, safe and sustainable pensions.
The document proposes 20 action points on pensions for the European Union and its member states to address Europe's aging population.
Mr Philp said: 'We particularly welcome the Commission's proposal to promote the sharing of best practice in responding to increasing longevity and changes in working patterns. And we agree that the EU can make a useful contribution in other areas, for example, by encouraging workplace pensions saving and by joining up national level pensions tracing services.
'However, the paper's positive aspects are overshadowed by the proposals to apply Solvency II type regulation to UK pensions. This would pile on extra pressure to defined benefit pension schemes and employers who are already facing difficult economic times.
'An EU Pensions Directive based on Solvency II capital rules would significantly undermine European pensions, jobs and the wider economy.
Mr Philp called on the EC to focus on where it could add 'real value', rather than by undermining pension provision and the prospects of economic growth and job creation.
The white paper was published just hours after the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority submitted advice to the Commission on reform of pensions regulation that would involve Solvency II-type laws being applied to workplace pensions.
And, Neil Carberry, director for employment at the Confederation of British Industry, shared Mr Philp's view that while the Commission's plans for sustainable pensions were to be welcomed, concerns over any move towards 'Solvency II for pensions' remained.
'The European Commission's White Paper is right to focus on promoting sustainable and affordable pension schemes, including the promotion of longer working lives and greater pension saving,' he said.
'Nonetheless, our concerns with the IORP (pensions) Directive remain. We are unconvinced Commissioner Barnier has moved on from his proposal of applying Solvency II-style regulations to pensions, which would be hugely damaging to the economy and job creation.
'The IORP Directive must place a greater emphasis on growth to better complement the overall direction set out by today's White Paper, putting pension affordability at the heart of the debate.'
Jonathan Lipkin, head of research and pensions at the Investment Management Association, said it was crucial for the Commission to recognise the diversity of national pension schemes across the EU and to also accept that occupation pension schemes and insurance companies are 'very different'.
He added: 'Both EIOPA and the European Commission emphasise the importance of better information for individuals. We strongly agree with this focus. The gradual transition to defined contribution pensions creates significant challenges.
'There is a need to ensure
that information is both readily available and accessible in terms of the
language used to communicate what are often difficult concepts.'
Further details of the white paper and the background behind the EC's work on pensions can be found here.