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EUROPE – CEIOPS chairman Henrik Bjerre-Nielsen has ruled out the need for a separate EU committee on pensions – despite the group’s current focus on the Solvency II project for the insurance industry.

Speaking at the Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Committee’s conference in Frankfurt, Bjerre-Nielsen said that crucial pension fund issues were not being neglected despite the demands of Solvency II. CEIOPS has repeatedly referred to the insurance workload.

MEPs Ieke van den Burg and Othmar Karas were this month expected to quiz the European Commission about the role CEIOPS is playing in the implementation of the occupational pension fund directive.

However, Bjerre-Nielsen said there was no need for a new EU committee for pensions supervision.

“Amid scarce resources, I would advise against it. I think it would unnecessarily increase costs and bureaucracy, as we would be dealing with yet another committee,” he told journalists.

Bjerre-Nielsen also stressed that it made a lot of sense to converge supervision of insurance companies with pension funds. "If there were no such convergence, politically responsible people would have to explain to pension beneficiaries why they should not have the same level of (regulatory) competence that policy holders in insurance companies could expect," he said.

CEIOPS does have a special working group on pension supervision. The group, headed by Hungarian regulator Mihaly Erdos, is currently drafting a new protocol that would serve as a framework for future supervision of pan-European pension funds.

However, a final draft of the protocol has been delayed following criticism, notably from the European Federation for Retirement Provision. Bjerre-Nielsen said he did not know when the final draft would be released, as this depended on its sanction from all CEIOPS member regulators.

Turning to CEIOPS' aim to monitor hedge fund and private equity, Bjerre-Nielsen said he didn't believe this would lead to complications with the EU's regulatory committees for banking and securities trading.

"We have a very strong cooperation with the other committees and we are doing our best to avoid overlap," he said.

Finally, asked whether CEIOPS and the other two committees could, in the future, form the basis for a single European financial services regulator, Bjerre-Nielsen replied that that was “very hypothetical”.

"It's difficult to make a prediction for what will happen in 20 years time. Though to be blunt with you, when the Danes turned down the Maastricht treat in 1992, I was very sceptical that I would ever see a European Central Bank. Then it came into being," Bjerre-Nielsen, who is also Denmark's chief financial services regulator, said.

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