EUROPE - Applying Solvency II to pension funds should not be viewed as a "copy/paste exercise", the chairman of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) told IPE.

Gabriel Bernardino echoed comments made in the past that elements of Solvency II could be applied to pension schemes across Europe, but went further in saying that, because the original directive was designed for insurance companies, it could not simply be applied to European retirement schemes.

He highlighted differences such as the long-term commitments made by pension schemes, which are not universally replicated by insurers, as one of the issues that needed to be considered.

He said that, in the case of insurance companies, the risk was transferred away from the person taking out a policy, whereas the arrangement with pension schemes was often different.

"Pension funds in some countries - for example, the UK - don't transfer the risk. The pension fund is a vehicle. The risk stays, basically, with the sponsor," he said, adding that it was "natural" that these differences should be taken into account.

"Of course, there are many elements of Solvency II you can consider and that we should consider," Bernardino noted.

He explained that his years of experience in the pension industry meant he understood the risks entailed by pension schemes, but that any changes introduced would end up being beneficial to members.

"This is not a copy/paste exercise, believe me, I don't want to do that," he stressed.

Resistance to Solvency II has been fierce, with individual schemes, national lobbying groups and a number of national government ministers opposed to its application.

Paul de Krom, former Dutch minister for social affairs and labour, previously warned that applying the guidelines to the country's pension funds would see contributions rise by as much as 30%.