EUROPE - The European Federation for Retirement Provision (EFRP) has set up a working party with representatives from the UK, Holland and Ireland in a bid to launch a pilot project for pan-European pension funds, following its disappointment that the association’s EIORP cross-border pensions concept was rejected by last month’s Ecofin meeting in Luxembourg.

In an interview with IPE-Newsline, Alan Pickering, the new chairman of the EFRP, says the working party will be talking to the appropriate people in each of the three countries about their regulatory superstructures, but says that before the discussion gets into too much detail, the EFRP wants to use a real employer as a pilot for the concept.
“If there are companies in those three countries who would like to work with us in establishing this arrangement then we would be more than happy to hear from them.”

Pickering expressed his disappointed that the EIORP proposal didn’t pass the Ecofin meeting last month: “We worked hard with the Commission and made a presentation to the appropriate council working group where we demonstrated to them that our proposal did establish tax fairness.”

In a criticism of the lack of progress being made on the pan-European pensions directive by the council, he added: “One has to think to what extent this really is a tax issue and what extent it is people still wanting to defend their system.”

A solution remaining to the EFRP, he believes, is to set up a practical example of how the EIORP would work
“What we have to do next is to try and tackle the issue at perhaps the level of the UK, Netherlands and Ireland and try and find an employer who would benefit from our approach to cross-border pension arrangements and try and talk with the authorities about any real obstacles that they see to achieving this.
“My vision is of a relatively large company,by Irish standards, with operations in other European companies like sales and servicing– where I think the EIORP would be manna from heaven for a company that does not want to have a professional pension function in each of those countries nor wants its employees to worry about moving between any of those countries. “

The three countries, he notes, have quite similar pension arrangements.
Pickering adds: “If this remains at the level of an EU wide debate, there is a danger that we try to find technical solutions to technical problems that don’t exist and then discover that the real issue has nothing to do with technicalities but with a broader, cultural suspicion of what we are trying to achieve.”