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Dutch lawmakers decry breadth of Brussels' remit on pension statements

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Dutch lawmakers have raised concerns over the wide discretion granted to the European Commission in designing a universal pension statement.

The Pension Benefit Statement (PBS), proposed as part of the revised IORP Directive, would limited disclosures on accrued benefits to two pages, with the exact shape of the statement to be set out in a “delegated act” – allowing the Commission to set regulation without input from the European Parliament. 

However, there has been some debate as to how the Dutch government should seek to remove the provision allowing for the use of the delegated act to set the PBS.

According to the Dutch Cabinet, negotiation is the best way.

However, in the opinion of Pieter Omtzigt, MP for the Christian Democrats (CDA), the Cabinet should vote against the delegated act in Brussels.

He has tabled a motion asking the Cabinet to oppose the proposed revision of the IORP Directive.

“Once a directive has been established, allowing the EC to independently set rules, it will bypass the national parliament, the European Parliament and the European Council,” he said.

“These bodies can only assess this, or try to revoke this, retrospectively. In practice, this never happens.”

But Jetta Klijnsma, state secretary for Social Affairs, has advised against Omtzigt’s motion.

She said voting in favour or against would make sense only if there were a concrete proposal.

However, she emphasised that the Dutch position was “of course aimed at scrapping the delegated act”, or watering it down enough to prevent infringements on national authority.

Klijnsma, responding to a motion tabled by Barry Madlener, MP for the freedom party PVV, vowed to negotiate “very hard” to streamline the Commission’s detailed proposals for governance and communications.

Madlener has called on the Cabinet to get the directive “off the table”, arguing that the outcome of the European elections, with a number of “anti-Europe” parties making gains, had “dramatically” improved the Dutch position.

Another contentious issue – the introduction of capital requirements on investment – is no longer part of the current IORP proposal, and outgoing EU commissioner Michel Barnier has left this problem to his successor.

However, it is widely expected that the incoming internal markets commissioner will once again emphasise the introduction of capital requirements for IORPs, despite the draft law pledging not to introduce “additional funding requirements beyond those foreseen” in the Directive.

In the opinion of pensions lawyer Eric Bergamin, the capital requirements would match the Commission’s policy for creating a level playing field with other industries, such as the insurance industry.

Hans van Meerten, fellow pensions lawyer at Clifford Chance, also expects the proposals will be postponed rather than abolished.

The Commission’s proposals for capital requirements are expected by mid-2015 at the earliest.

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority has said it will consult on the matter towards the end of 2014.

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