Sunday, May 18, 2008

Failed Pensions Directive?

The Pensions Directive has failed and should be replaced by a new version as quickly as possible, according to a panel discussion reported by IPE last week. The reasoning is that at this point, there are only five new cross border pension schemes in operation.

While I agree that the market response to the new opportunities offered by the Pensions Directive has been slow to date, talk of a "new" pensions directive is counter-productive in my view. The retirement industry has an unusually long time horizon, it is therefore not prone to hasty moves, especially not in the presence of regulatory uncertainty. As the CEIOPS Initial review of key aspects of the implementation of the IORP directive showed in April, there are important aspects that require legislative attention, thus the transposition of the pioneering project that is the Pensions Directive, while formally finished, is not complete. 

The Pensions Directive can be improved, but improvements should be approached in a gradual manner, as it is highly unlikely that IORP II could bring pan-European harmonisation of retirement systems. Hence impediments to cross-border schemes, such as taxation issues, need to be removed one by one. The attractiveness of cross-border schemes should be increased by expanding the scope of the Directive's applicability. Surprisingly, this is not part of CEIOPS' conclusions, but as described earlier, an important segment of several Central & Eastern European countries' mandatory occupational retirement schemes lies outside of the Directive's scope. This unfortunate omission is due to the fact that these countries did have no part in the preparation of the Directive prior to their accession to the EU. 

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