The European Commission is delaying the release of its directive on supplementary pensions by two months until September.
Suggestions are that the decision may have been taken to avoid embarrassing France during its tenure of the European Union presidency – a theory confirmed by sources at the Commission.
However, in an outline of the Commission’s intentions in Rome on June 22 at the southern European leg of the Rebuilding Pensions tour, Martin Merlin of the Commission indicated that companies with less than 100 employees will be exempt from any requirements of the directive – a proposal which drew criticism from Portuguese and Greek delegates present.
José Manuel Mendinhos, general manager at Lisbon-based gestora Futuro, pointed out that such an exemption could be detrimental to protection of the country’s workers. “If the directive only applies to companies with over 100 people this could end up being extremely dangerous, as in Portugal almost 85% of companies are in this boat.” He noted, however that Portugal would be compliant to the majority of proposals outlined by Merlin (see page 10).
His point was reiterated by Dimitris Tsoukalas, vice president of the Greek Federation of Bank Employees Unions, who noted that the number of companies left out by such a clause would probably be even higher – around 95%, in Greece.
In his speech, Merlin commented: “I do not think that Spain, Italy and Portugal will have a problem in implementing the proposals that we have for the directive.”
However, Marcello Messori, president of MEFOP, the foundation for the development of the Italian pensions market, posed the question whether Italy’s third pillar pension schemes would fit into the context of a commission directive. “This could be a problem in Italy because the law for supplementary pensions includes the open funds which are not separate legal entities as required by legislation.” Merlin replied that the Commission was trying to incorporate Italy’s third pillar open fund into the directive.
Massimo Antichi from the Italian Ministry of Labour also expressed his puzzlement at what he saw as a gap in the directive: “The purpose here is to create a single market for supplementary pensions, yet there are a number of exceptions to this rule. The example is that there are some countries which will benefit from the mobility of labour without the costs involved and the directive should envisage this – the costs must be shared equally.”
Ana Maria Aznar, from the Ministry of Finance in Spain, said she envisaged no particular problems with the directive: “We already have prudential investment rules if not a little bit more detailed than what is proposed by the commission.”