EUROPE – EC Commissioner Frits Bolkestein has expressed his ‘deep concern’ to the European Council about the lack of priority given to the proposed European directive on occupational pension funds presented by the Commission a year ago, warning that it is going ‘nowhere fast’.

At a meeting of the Council of Economics and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) in Luxembourg yesterday (Oct 16), Bolkestein reminded ministers that the directive had been specifically identified as a ‘high priority’ by 1999’s Lisbon European Council meeting.
He added: "The European Parliament has already adopted its Opinion, but in the Council of Ministers, the proposal appears to be going nowhere fast. Without this directive, Europe’s future pensioners run a greater risk of getting a raw deal.”

Bolkestein pointed out to Council ministers that the proposal would ensure a high level of protection for the rights of future pensioners while ensuring that institutions enjoyed sufficient freedom to develop an effective investment policy.

However, the Commissioner welcomed the adoption of conclusions by the Council on tackling tax obstacles to membership of an occupational pension scheme in another Member State.

The Council agreed to hold consultations on the automatic exchange of information on occupational pensions under the auspices of the Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters Directive.

It also underlined the need to deal with the double taxation and double non-taxation resulting from mismatches between Member States’ systems for the taxation of occupational pensions.

The Commissioner announced that he had sent letters to all Member States enquiring about their national systems for pension taxation as a follow-up to the Commission communication of April 2001.

On the basis of Member States’ replies, he said, the Commission would decide what further action to take.

Bolkestein also underlined that he preferred to solve taxation issues in direct contact with the Member States concerned, and that taking Member States to the European Court of Justice would only be a method of last resort.