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IPE special report May 2018

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Brussels must 'preserve' framework for individual pension systems

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  • Brussels must 'preserve' framework for individual pension systems

EUROPE – The European Commission must establish a framework for individual member states' pension systems and only regulate on the "main issues" to keep the EU from "exploding", according to Gerry Dietvorst, an outgoing senior manager at Dutch insurer Achmea.

Dietvorst, who retired last week, said: "If the Commission fails to establish a framework, younger generations won't be able to pay for their pensions any longer and older generations will run out of money."

In an interview published in an in-house Achmea magazine, he also argued the fact Northern European countries had "properly organised their pensions" while Southern states had not would only exacerbate the problem.  

But he added that it would be "short-sighted" to think the Dutch pensions system was safe.

"Our pension assets have been invested all over Europe," he said.

"If things go wrong at the other end, we will suffer as well. And because the Southern countries are unable to initiate unpopular pension reform themselves, Brussels must do the steering."

Dietvorst also pointed out that the Netherlands was currently implementing nearly all of the recommendations made in the European Commission's White Paper on Pensions, such as linking pensionable age to life expectancy.

But the industry veteran said he did not anticipate uniform rules for all pension systems across Europe.

"If, for example, it is custom that children [once grown] take their parents into their homes, as it is in Greece, European pensions policy must take this into account," he said.

He also called on EU member states to encourage their citizens to "take responsibility" for financing their retirement through fiscal stimuli in the third pillar, as a "compensating layer".

Commenting on the Dutch pensions system, he said public policy had "fully failed" nearly 1m self-employed workers.

"On one side, the government promotes entrepreneurship as the economy's engine – but if it is about the accrual of a pension, it leaves them out in the cold, facing future poverty," he said, adding that a "single fiscal pensions framework for everyone" would be the solution.

Dietvorst is also professor of pensions provision at Tilburg University, as well as chairman of its CompetenceCentre for Pensions Research.

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