Dutch rapporteur aims to limit European interference in pensions
NETHERLANDS - The European Commission's plans to revamp the IORP Directive along the lines of Solvency II will increase Dutch pension funds' buffer requirements by 11%, delaying inflation compensation and leading to unnecessary contribution hikes and possible benefit cuts, according to social affairs minister Henk Kamp.
Kamp and the Dutch parliament expressed grave reservations regarding the Commission's plans, and the minister announced a concerted effort to achieve a revision of the directive that would be "less damaging" for the Netherlands.
The parliamentary committee for social affairs and labour has appointed Christian Democrat MP Pieter Omtzigt as its point man, or 'special rapporteur', to further the Dutch cause in Brussels and limit European "interference" with the Dutch pensions system.
Omtzigt told IPE sister publication IPNederland that the Lisbon treaty allowed for a number of options to achieve this.
"One of these is the so-called 'yellow card' procedure," he said. "If one-third of national parliaments decide that the principle of subsidiarity applies to the matter and so should be regulated on a national level rather than being decided by Brussels, then the European Commission is obliged to 'reconsider' its proposal.
"In this case, our parliamentary committee feels the subsidiarity principle should apply and that it is not up to Europe to regulate this."
He added: "A 'yellow card' procedure has to be initiated within eight weeks after the EC has presented its proposal, so this is a matter of some urgency. In my role of rapporteur, I plan to waste no time and will immediately start contacting other euro countries and trying to enlist the support of other national parliaments in Europe for our position."
It remains to be seen if the Dutch will succeed in winning over a third of the 27 member states. Alternative procedures would require even stronger support: a so-called 'orange card' procedure requires that more than half of all member state parliaments take issue with a EU Commission proposal.
An outright withdrawal of a proposed directive requires 55% of votes in the Council of Ministers or a majority in the European Parliament.
If all else fails, a member state can argue its subsidiarity case before the European Court of Justice.
Omtzigt said he aimed to first seek the support of countries with similar pension systems to the Dutch - such as Germany, Ireland and the UK - as they might be considered "natural allies".
He added: "The idea is to line up support before the summer, as the European Commission will likely present a first version of the new directive in the fall."
The Dutch campaign will focus on three priorities, according to Omtzigt.
"First, we do not want the IORP Directive," he said. "Second, we do not want the portability directive.
"Third we want to achieve coordination on the matter of pension portability to ensure people can more easily receive benefit payouts."