EUROPE – European commissioner Frits Bolkestein has hailed the new directive on pan-European occupational pension funds – approved today by the European Council – as key in tackling the pension time bomb.

The internal market commissioner said: "Today's Council decision is a major achievement. It concludes more than 10 years of discussions and sometimes difficult negotiations.”

“The directive will provide pension funds with a coherent framework to operate within the internal market. They will now be able to build on that platform to offer safer and affordable pensions.

“The directive will also give European companies and citizens the opportunity to benefit from more efficient pan-European pension funds, and so make an important contribution to tackling the ‘pension time bomb’."

“European pension funds will become a reality from this afternoon,” said Leonardo Sforza, head of research and EU affairs at Hewitt Bacon & Woodrow, speaking at a European pensions conference in London.

Sforza said the directive opens up a “huge opportunity” for service providers. He also foresaw companies being able to pool pension assets and liabilities, exercise more effective investment policies, with greater control and transparency over plan governance.

The Council adopted the text of the directive “without discussion” that was approved by the European Parliament in March. The directive is due to be implemented by EU member states within 24 months of its publication in the EU's Official Journal.