EUROPE - The European Commission plans to step up negotiations on its pensions portability directive and set up tracking services for pension rights, according to Jung-Duk Lichtenberger.

The economic and policy desk officer at the insurance and pensions unit of the Commission's market directorate general said Brussels was also hoping to "get things moving" to develop the single market for personal pension schemes and improve information for participants.

Speaking at the Pensions Forum in Scheveningen yesterday, Lichtenberger acknowledged that demand for cross-border pension schemes in Europe was relatively low, with just 87 schemes operating from seven countries.

Cross-border schemes are run from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and the UK, but not the Netherlands.

But Lichtenberger claimed that 10-20 employers were currently interested in starting cross-border pension plans. He also argued that facilitating cross-border activity would cut employers' costs by simplifying the legal, regulatory and administrative environment and eliminating additional rules on the duration of recovery plans, investments and disclosure.

He said the Commission planned to build on the pensions expertise of the Netherlands.

Responding to fears over the costs of Solvency II rules for Dutch schemes, he stressed that the Commission "would not force" changes upon the Dutch system.

During the conference, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, MEP and pensions monitor for the European Parliament, quoted EU Commissioner Michel Barnier as recently saying that he would not launch his proposals for Solvency II requirements for pension funds before the end of 2013.

Niels Kortleve, member of the occupational pensions stakeholder group at EIOPA and the EFRP's pensions security working committee, warned against the hasty introduction of the holistic balance sheet as part of the IORP review.

"It seems to be a proper steering instrument, but we need to research and develop it thoroughly," he said. "Currently, the European Commission is moving too fast."

Also during the meeting, Gerard Heeres, employers' representative in the pensions committee at the EOCD, described the review of the IORP Directive as "undesired", as it tries to "find solutions for non-existing problems".

"Because it will cause pension funds to refocus from investing in equity to bonds, it is at odds with the EU's growth targets," he added.