ITALY- The European Commission's directive on institutions for occupational retirement provision – the pensions directive – is "largely" accepted, a survey by the European Federation for Retirement Provision has found.

Provisional results of a survey, carried by the EFRP across European counties, reveals the directive's principles are "largely accepted because of_the standard in financial services,” said the EFRP’s first vice chairman.

Angel Martinez Aldama was discussing the survey at a conference in Rome organised by the association for the development of pension funds, Mefop and the BSI Gamma Foundation.

Highlighting the most important points of the directive, which should be implemented throughout the EU by September 2005, the EFRP official said Spain and the UK are "forerunners" in the implementation process.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands were still "in a consulting phase" he explained, with Finland, and Sweden and Denmark engaged in an open consultation.

The directive demands a separation between the sponsoring undertaking and IORPs and that IORPs are run by "persons of good repute, appropriate qualifications and experience".

Annual accounts and information to IORPs' members will be compulsory in order to give a clear view of the IORP's financial situation.

Members and beneficiaries may also ask for the IORP's annual accounts and annual reports, he told delegates.

Authorities will also be given information about the IORP's business matters, including dealing between IORPS and other companies.

Martinez Aldama said European pension funds will have 10,427 billion dollars in assets in 2006, with the UK accounting for 2,235 billion dollars and the Netherlands 650 billion dollars. Other countries: Switzerland ($441bn), Germany ($204bn), France ($124bn) and Italy ($114bn).

In 2003, he continued, pension funds assets accounted for 99.6% of GDP in the Netherlands and 79.1% in the UK.

Custodians and asset managers, however, tend to be critical of the directive in Italy, Spain, France and Portugal.

The directive’s much-debated inclusion of the "prudent person rule" has met with qualitative restrictions, re-branded "prudent person plus" in Austria, Denmark, Spain, Finland and Italy.

Extending management of pension funds to insurers is a bone of contention but is favourably seen in Italy.