EC Commissioner Frits Bolkestein came under attack yesterday at a Brussels pensions conference, where he gave details of his next move on taxation likely to be next month.

The main tax point to be tackled would be the barriers to cross border provision of occupational pensions, he told the Friends of Europe conference. “The pensions fund directive does not deal with the tax obstacles to cross border provision of occupational pensions.”

He added that in many cases the obstacles prevent workers moving across border from remaining in their home country scheme.
“ In many instances, workers in one member state cannot join a pension scheme operated by a pension provider in another member state.”
These stood in the way of a fully functioning single market for occupational pensions, he commented.

EFRP chairman Kees van Rees, also speaking at the conference, thanked Bolkestein for his support of the EET(exempt/exempt/taxed) approach to pensions taxation.
But he was critical of the EU member states, which focused on “today’s and tomorrow’s votes” for critical measures that would have their real impact in 10 years’ time.
“With due respect to Mr Bolkestein, there is no ‘Schuman’ on pensions in sight, who with foresight and authority will be able to promote and implement the necessary policies.”

At a conference press briefing, MEP Michel Rocard, who chairs the parliament’s committee on employment and social affairs, praised Bolkestein for being a “fantastic commissioner, being one of the toughest, one of the most precise and one of the most coherent.”
However, he added: “ He might be excessively sure about his own thinking and a bit reluctant to listen to the uncertainties, difficulties and obstacles which come from the political arena.”

The Friends of Europe conference took place on the same day as the open hearing of European pension industry experts to the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.