The head of a US employee benefits company has warned European countries of the threat of pensions liabilities to EMU.

Pointing to the EMU timetable, Michael Gulotta, chief executive of ASA, which anchors the Asinta gobal benefits network, raised the issue of pension liabilities: The national debt criterion becomes particularly interesting when viewed in the context of massive unfunded pension levels. In EU countries debt at least doubles as a percentage of GDP when the unfunded programmes of state pension funds are recognised."

He added that the privatisation of state benefits was increasingly on the agenda, pointing to John Ma-jor's proposals for compulsory in-dividual retirement plans in the UK, and to recent French reforms.

"Governments are increasingly regulating to force more of the burden of retirement benefits on-to the private sector," he added."