EUROPE - Nine countries have sent a letter to the European Commission asking for changes to how private pension debt is included in the calculations of a country's debt levels.

The letter, signed by the finance ministers of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia, argues they are disadvantaged due to reforms made to their private pension system.

Commission spokesperson Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio confirmed the letter had been sent.

"It was addressed to [Herman] Van Rompuy, president of the Council, and [Olli] Rehn, commissioner for monetary and economic affairs," he said. "We are now analysing the letter."

Altadaj-Tardio added: "[The countries] claim that, indeed, there is an unequal treatment of member states and those who have carried out these [pension] reforms - they are effectively punished when it comes to reflect that in the debt and deficit statistics."

Regulations outlined in the Maastricht treaty currently only allow union member states a debt-to-GDP ratio of 60%.

However, more attention is currently paid when a country's deficit exceeds 3% of GDP.

Discussions are currently underway for stricter enforcement of the 60% rule, as well as possible penalties.

The debt-to-GDP ratio in the EU was expected to be 84% by 2011, while the picture is even worse when examining euro-zone countries, where the forecast was for 88%, according to figures released as part of a European economic forecast in May.

At the time, Greece was predicted to be the worst offender in 2011, with debt accounting for 134% of GDP, followed by Italy and Belgium, with 119% and 101%, respectively.

Sweden was only predicted to have a debt-to-GDP ratio of 42%, by far the lowest of all 27 member states.

Poland's deputy finance minister Ludwik Kotecki has estimated that private pension debt could account for around 10% of a country's overall debt.

Altadaj-Tardio noted that only two countries were currently not under excessive debt burdens: Estonia and Sweden.

He said the issues being raised were important and that now was the right time to start a discussion.

But he added that the letter offered no detailed reform suggestions and merely served as a platform for debate.

"The accounting standards of the European Union are decided by consensus by all member states, so any change has to be agreed amoung the 27 member states, and that's the real issue here," he said.

The European Commission's response is expected to be published in early September,  ahead of the next meeting of EU finance ministers.