EUROPE – European Commissioner Frits Bolkestein has won the IPE Award for Outstanding Industry Contribution for 2003.

The award, made in a ceremony in Amsterdam on November 20 in front of 467 guests representing 200 pension funds worth around 600 billion euros, was not just for his work on the pan-European Pensions Directive in 2003, but for his continued bold support of sustainable pension reform in Europe.

If there is such a thing as a European pensions ‘timebomb’, then Frits Bolkestein, member of the European Commission responsible for Internal Market, Taxation and Customs Union, is one of the individuals most likely to help defuse it.

He has been at the forefront of implementation of the European Union’s Financial Services Action Plan – a blueprint that will shape EU markets for the future.

He has called the FSAP “a marathon, not a sprint” - a maxim that most in the world of European pensions can concur with.

Through the FSAP, Bolkestein’s influence will touch most involved in the European financial services industry – from clearing and settlement to cross-border securities transactions, accounting services and simplification of EU Life Assurance Directives.

However, for most in the European pensions industry, Bolkestein is synonymous with his work on the pan-European Pensions Directive. That we have a Directive at all today, after ten years of seemingly endless stop-start discussion, is due in no little part to the Commissioner’s tenacity.