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Bolkenstein set to continue reforms

Frits Bolkenstein, the prospective European commissioner for internal market affairs, which will pick up the reins for pensions and financial services reform previously handled by Mario Monti and DGXV, has stated that the “proper protection of future pensioners” will be the “cornerstone” of any future policy proposals.
And in a sign that he will continue the liberalisation of Europe’s financial markets, he points out that maintaining the standard of living of pensioners and solidarity between generations will require: “an efficient and competitive industry that can trade safely cross-frontiers”.
In the response to a preliminary questionnaire from the European parliament, Bolkenstein, a former leader of the Dutch liberal party, notes that supplementary pensions remain the only major category of financial institutions without an EU regulatory framework.
However, he stops short of full adoption of May’s pensions communication.
“I think that the communication adopted by the outgoing Commission in May 1999 provides a sound basis for developing an EU legislative framework. It mapped out a coherent set of principles for moving ahead and will serve as the basis for my consultation of all interested parties in the coming months.”
In a reference to the difficult issue of tax treatment concerning cross-border contributions, Bolkenstein concedes: “Here, the interaction of differing national tax provisions can lead to problems. Further debates in the taxation policy groups on this will begin in the autumn.”
Bolkenstein will have to appear before a special European Parliament hearing early this month before his appointment is ratified.
Commenting on Bolkenstein’s appointment, Kees Van Rees, chairman of the European Federation for Retirement Provision (EFRP) says he believes his familiarity with the Dutch system and his political background will favour the liberalisation of European investment and support of funded retirement provision.
“I also believe his time spent working with a large multinational like Shell means he will be sympathetic to the argument for a pan-European pension fund from both the employer and employee perspective. The big question will be on taxation though and I hope he can overcome some of the problems which have hampered the harmonisation issue in the past.
“He is a good independent thinker, however, and listens to the arguments before moving forward purposefully - so in that respect I very much welcome his appointment and hope he will keep up the momentum created by Mario Monti.
“The EFRP will certainly be looking to meet him at the earliest opportunity, should his position be cleared by the parliament, to put forward our views on these issues.”
Former DGXV Commissioner Mario Monti will remain in the commission in charge of the European competition portfolio, subject to parliamentary approval. Hugh Wheelan

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