EUROPE - The "pressure and scrutiny" pension funds are under has become a growing concern within the European Union, according to commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion László Andor.
Addressing the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) conference in Manchester today, Andor also stressed the Commission understood that comparing insurance companies and pension funds was like comparing "apples and oranges".
However, he was reluctant to reveal any details of the forthcoming White Paper on Pensions or revised IORP directive - due for publication next month and in 2012, respectively.
"As I said in my introduction, it is premature to go into details of the White Paper," he said. "It is even more premature to go into details or even speculate about the substance of the forthcoming IORP legislation."
Challenged by Patrick Burke, chairman of the European Federation for Retirement Provision, that the IORP directive did not have an "objective to try and create a level playing field" between insurers and pension funds, Andor deflected the question and said it would be a matter best answered by commissioner Michel Barnier, who is responsible for internal markets.
The European insurance and reinsurance federation CEA has long argued for an approach of "same risks, same rules, same capital" to be applied across both insurance companies and pension funds.
But Andor stressed that the Commission understood the difference between both industries.
"There is a difference, and it is understood," he said. "Please accept there is a legitimate analysis and legitimate effort to see what needs to be done, in a reasonable way, in each and every element of the financial sector - including the pension funds."
He added: "With the demographic ageing and the economic crisis, pension systems are perhaps as never before coming under more and more pressure and scrutiny - and are increasingly a matter of common concern in the European Union."
Regarding the forthcoming White Paper on Pensions, he said: "Those of you who have read the summary of Green Paper responses will have picked up some clues on the direction based on what stakeholders have said in the discussion."
Andor said he hoped that, with next month's publication of the White Paper, the pension industry would find it a "helpful step" toward member states achieving "adequate, sustainable and safe pensions."