EUROPE - The European Commission will not publish any proposals on the revised IORP directive before next summer, Michel Barnier told a conference in Amsterdam today.
Speaking at the annual conference of Insurance Europe - the insurance and reinsurance federation previously known as CEA - the commissioner for the internal market also announced the imminent publication of a Green Paper on long-term investment, signalling some recognition of concerns from the pensions industry regarding their ability to act as long-term investors under a revised IORP framework.
However, the commissioner did not as expected comment on the quantitative impact study (QIS) for the holistic balance sheet (HBS), although he reiterated that the Commission does not intend to apply "all the Solvency II rules" to occupational pensions institutions.
He said: "Nevertheless, European regulation of insurance companies is important for pension funds because of the legal link between the two.
"I believe it is important in regulatory terms to maintain a level playing field between insurance companies and pension funds when they supply similar and interchangeable products. I do not wish to penalise either of them."
Barnier went on to announce that the next draft of the revised IORP Directive would not be published until the summer of 2013.
"Given the complexity and importance of this issue, and particularly the need for first-rate quantitative impact assessments, I have decided to take a few more months to finalise the revision," he said.
Last month, IPE reported the plans of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) to publish a consultation paper on a quantitative impact study of the 'holistic balance sheet' proposal by mid-June.
The consultation paper aims to detail the points EIOPA intends to assess in the QIS to implement the HBS approach and the participants involved in the QIS process.
The delay in the launch of the consultation paper, in turn, means that the results of the study on the proposal for the IORP Directive will likely be postponed.
Under the plans originally set by the Commission, the European authority was expected to launch the QIS in early May, with a view to publishing its results at the end of September.
The Commission was hoping to introduce a draft version of the new Directive before the end of this year, either in November or December.
A spokeswoman for EIOPA told IPE: "EIOPA will work according to its own working schedule and is still developing the methodology for the QIS.
"We consider that the QIS is very important input to the review of the IORP Directive."
Barnier stressed that no final decision had yet been taken on the new rules for pension funds and that the preparatory work was still under way.
"Over the coming months, the Commission will continue to work closely with EIOPA and all the other stakeholders to ensure that the final text hits the right note," he said.
The industry has consistently voiced its concerns over the "tight" timescale the Commission had imposed, arguing that the implementation of the revised IORP Directive was a "serious" matter that Brussels should consider in greater depth.
In addition to these changes to the IORP timetable, Barnier announced that the Commission would "shortly" launch a Green Paper on long-term investing to better understand the impact of incoming financial regulation - a process that could have an impact on pensions regulation.
Barnier acknowledged that work on insurance products with long-term guarantees under Solvency II would have a "profound" impact on the ability of insurers to invest for the long term.
"In this regard, I would like to examine the impact of our proposals, especially Capital Requirements Directive IV and the Solvency II Directive.
"I will also seek new ways of encouraging this long-term investment, which is particularly essential for funding major infrastructure projects and the environmental transition."
Signalling a potential change in approach regarding IORP proposals, he said: "The same would also apply to pension funds if a similar approach is chosen."
However, no timeline has been given for the launch of this project and it remains to be seen how the results of the green paper will come to impact the revised IORP Directive.