EUROPE – European Union Member States’ social and financial ministers are to work together to produce a report on the overall state of EU pension systems by the end of the year, following informal discussions last weekend by European social ministers marking the Belgian takeover of the European presidency.

Commenting on the Brussels meeting, Henk Becquaert, advisor to Belgian social affairs and pensions minister Frank Vandenbroucke, says: “As part of the process set up in Stockholm the two bodies will work together to produce a unique report for the pensions systems of the countries.
“ Otherwise, you will have a report looking at the financial side and another looking at the social side from a completely different angle and we don’t want that. We want the same method coming from both sides, because one of the issue is that we have to be able to pay pensions in thirty or forty years time – it is a social issue not just a financial one.
“ It is the whole perspective – first, second and third pillar pensions.”

The joint report will bring together the social protection committee of European social ministers and the economic protection looking of Europe’s financial ministers.

Becquaert says the aim is to produce the report in time for the Laaken treaty in December marking the end of the Belgian tenure of the presidency.
“ We first have to agree on objectives - financial stability yes, but levels of pensions, poverty and the principles and goals.
“ We were all in favour of going forward and talking about pensions not only from a purely financial way but also from a social point of view and that you have to make a balanced system of both.
“ This is something we want to achieve in our presidency.”

Becquaert also notes that the Karas report on occupational pensions is meeting partial resistance in most Member States.
“ There is no country that I know that says the directive is completely OK, they each have their different remarks.
“We (Belgium) also have some problems with the directive.
“ There are social issues that are not solved. Maybe they don’t need to be solved by this directive, but we have to be sure that the social and labour law is used correctly and we don’t know how it will be organised if you work and pay contributions in Belgium, but then the pension fund is, say, in Italy. How you can control this?
“ We have to be sure that our social laws are not diminished by the use of a financial directive.”