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European pension sector 'should not cry before it's been hit', says MEP

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The European pensions industry would do well to not cry foul over incoming financial legislation when it has yet to be impacted by major changes, a senior European legislator has said.

Markus Ferber, elected deputy chairman of the influential Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) within the European Parliament earlier this week, said recent European regulation and directives had offered a number of exemptions to pension funds – to the point where MEPs were accused of “creating a Swiss cheese” of regulation.

The MEP, a member of Germany’s governing CDU party, rejected claims that financial legislation had failed to acknowledge its impact on the pensions sector.

“I can’t see that,” he told IPE. “If you go through all the legislation we made in the area, we made a lot of exemptions for, especially, pension funds.”

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Ferber, now in his fifth term as an MEP, has been a member of ECON since 2009, and from 2010 served as rapporteur for the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR).

EMIR eventually granted pension funds a temporary exemption from the obligation to centrally clear over the counter (OTC) derivatives trades.

Referencing the exemptions granted the pensions sector, Ferber added: “Some even accused us of creating a Swiss cheese – so I can’t accept this kind of accusation from the sector.”

He added: “You don’t have to cry before you’ve been hit. That is sometimes what I hear, especially from this sector – they start crying, but they’ve never been hit.”

He also said the Parliament had now done its job with regard to the financial transaction tax (FTT) and that its introduction was a matter for the European Council, comprising the heads of the 28 member states.

However, Ferber stressed that the former Parliament had been “fully supportive” of the FTT and said he – alongside newly elected ECON chairman Roberto Gualtieri of Italy’s left-leaning Democratic Party (PD) – had fought for its introduction.

He said he believed Italy’s current presidency of the Council of the European Union could mean renewed momentum for the proposal, despite the fact it is supported by only 11 member states, including Germany and Italy. 

He noted that, in light of its deficit, Italy could be interested in “more internal revenues on the side of tax, and this could be one”.

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