The European Commission has launched a long-awaited consultation on the future operation of the three European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs).

The consultation had been expected in the second half of last year.

The commission’s aim is to “identify areas where the effectiveness and efficient of the ESAs can be strengthened and improved”. Legislation could be put forward if deemed necessary.

“More coordinated and integrated supervision will be increasingly important in future, notably to develop and integrate EU capital markets through Capital Markets Union,” said the commission.

The ESAs – which comprise the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), the European Banking Authority (EBA), and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) – welcomed the consultation, saying that “the time is now ripe” for such an assessment.

In a joint statement they said: “The European Commission’s consultation raises important issues on the powers of the three authorities, on possible improvements in their decision-making processes and on a much needed review of their financing frameworks.

“An open discussion on these issues is key to ensure that the ESAs are able to effectively contribute in building the Capital Markets Union, to further progress towards supervisory convergence, and to enhance consumer protection and stability in the internal market.”

PensionsEurope has been eagerly awaiting the consultation and was pleased by its scope, Matti Leppälä, its chief executive, told IPE.

“We had some concerns that the focus would be on funding but for us it also important to address questions about the governance of the ESAs and how much own initiative it should be allowed to take, as many pension funds claim EIOPA has overstretched its remit,” he said.

“The consultation looks broad, which is good. This is an opportunity for creative ideas about the ESAs’ structure, powers, governance structure, and more.”

The consultation asks for stakeholders’ thoughts about the ESAs’ tasks and powers, governance, supervisory architecture, and funding.

The commission said the issues being consulted on “are mostly well known to stakeholders”.

They include the aforementioned concerns about EIOPA overstepping its remit, concerns among the ESAs themselves about their resources, and calls from some quarters for a merger of the supervisory authorities.

In one way or another these issues were touched on in the consultation.

For example, it noted that there were concerns that the ESA guidelines “are increasingly expansive and go beyond their originally intended function”. It also asked whether there was merit in merging EBA and EIOPA, and invited comments on whether the ESAs should be funded by industry – fully or partially – as opposed to the existing public contributions-based arrangement.

The consultation is open until 16 May. It can be found here.