EUROPE - Work on advancing the harmonisation of workplace pensions (IORPs) is already moving ahead in the Occupational Pensions Stakeholder Group, a body attached to European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA).

Bruno Gabellieri, secretary general of the European Association of Paritarian Institutions of Social Protection (AEIP), told IPE the group's first step to upgrade IORPs aimed to unravel the EU's disjointed social and labour laws.

No definition for the measures exists, so each of the EU's 27 member states country is able to define them differently, according to Gabellieri.

He said tackling that problem would be the committee's first major move.

Its initiative is part of its eventual programme to provide a "concrete process" to identify the main obstacles blocking a revised and unified IORP package.

The committee's intention is to have in place a "skeletal draft" of its recommendations on social and labour legislation to the EIOPA board as early as May.

The committee for pensions, which has a separate counterpart for insurance, comprises a team of 30 members. They are drawn from pension funds, academics and representatives of consumers, users and employers.

The committee's purpose is to provide a "global view".

"We are independent," Gabellieri added.

The secretary general of the AEIP, which promotes social protection at EU-level, pointed out that there are currently common rules on paid holidays across some borders.

"Why is this possible, and not for pensions?" he asked.

Other subjects touched on by the committee included a range of financial rules - such the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, which provides harmonised regulation for investment services and is now under review - and taxation.

Officially, the committee is to hold at least four meetings per year, but current pressures could result in six or seven this year.

As for its "parent" body, the staff of EIOPA has already reached 37 and is expected to rise to 100-120 by 2013-14, Gabellieri said.