NETHERLANDS - Dutch pension funds are endangering themselves by failing to take over company pension funds abroad, former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein has said.

"If Dutch schemes don't target international investments, they will face a gloomy future," he stated in daily De Telegraaf.

Bolkestein has been involved in the take-over directive, which allows pension funds to invest in foreign schemes. "The pensions sector in the Netherlands hasn't taken any advantage of this so far," he added.

The pension directive - Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision - was passed in 2003 during Bolkestein's tenure at the Commission.

"Unilever has housed the pension fund for its 7,000 best-paid workers in Luxembourg, but why not in the Netherlands? Bringing pension funds together is very important to multinational companies. Holland could take the initiative, but doesn't," he said.

According to Bolkestein, the pension system in Europe is mainly facing danger from a population decrease. "Countries with a higher birth rate will profit. Young people are more flexible, inventive and carry the economic growth. Those demographic effects will have a dramatic impact on the European member states."

The former EU commissioner made clear that he is in a sombre mood on Europe in general. There is too much protectionism, he indicated.