A Europe-wide coalition of employers, workers and pensions industry groups has called on the European Commission not to apply Solvency II rules to occupational pensions.
The European Federation for Retirement Provision made the call yesterday as the European Commissioner for internal market and services, Michael Barnier spoke at a public hearing on the review of the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision, or IORP, Directive.
In its statement, the EFTP said Mr Barnier and the Commission should reconsider any 'dangerous' move to apply Solvency II, which was developed for the insurance industry, to the pensions sector as part of the review.
'We believe that it is dangerous to apply legislation made for insurance companies to IORPs. There are fundamental differences between them,' they said.
'Any effort to harmonise the regulatory regime is based on flawed logic and could have unintended consequences on pension plan members, IORPs and the economy as a whole by impeding growth and job creation.'
The Commission and European Union members were urged to keep occupational pensions 'adequate and sustainable' as their importance increases in the face of an aging population and pressure on government budgets.
'We urge the European Commission to reconsider its plans and to create an environment that stimulates workplace pension provision. The impact of any new proposals must be measured through high-quality Quantitative Impact Studies, including assessment of the social, financial and economic effects of any proposed rule changes, and their macro-economic effects,' they said.
'A high-level political debate is also required with involvement from all the relevant stakeholders, most notably the European social partners.'
However, in his speech in Brussels yesterday, Mr Barnier again sought to downplay concerns over how Solvency II might be applied to workplace pensions.
'By way of warning against jumping the gun, I would point out that we have not yet put forward any proposals,' he said.
He added: 'I would clarify that I have never said or implied that pension funds could be subject to exactly the same rules as those set out under Solvency II. If that had been our intention, we would have made the proposal back in 2007 when we were submitting the Solvency II Directive. We did not do so because we are aware of the key role played by occupational pensions in the Member States' pension schemes.'
Reiterating the reassurance hegave last month that the IORP Directive review would not 'copy and paste' Solvency II, Mr Barnier called, however, for all parties to be 'open to change'.
'No national system is perfect. I would invite you to consider the revision of the Directive as an opportunity to improve the national approaches,' he said.
'A pension scheme is a solidarity pact par excellence. Let us show our solidarity at European level'
The signatories to the EFRP statement include: The European Association of Paritarian Institutions; SME organisation BusinessEurope; The European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public services; The European Fund and Asset Management Association; European Federation for Retirement Provision; European Trade Union Confederation; European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association; and, European Association of Craft, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.