EUROPE – Charlie McCreevy, internal markets chief at the European Commission, says 20 European Union countries will be “on board” with the pension fund directive by the end of the year.

“By December 31 2005 we expect to have 20 out of 25 member states on board,” McCreevy told IPE on the sidelines of a conference organised by the Irish Association of Pension Funds in Dublin today.

He added that non-compliance with the directive – which officially comes into force tomorrow - would be met with various warnings according to EU regulations.

He emphasised the need for citizens to take control over their own retirement.

He told delegates: “Citizens need to put their futures into their own hands. Governments are facilitating this role. The pension directive is there to create an internal market for the member states to subscribe to.”

He said the pension timebomb was ticking and looked set to “explode” in about 2010. “Ultimately however people need to take responsibility while being assisted by forward-looking policies.”

The conference was also told that the directive has the potential to create thousands of jobs for Ireland over the next 10 years.

"By their wise interpretation of the EU directive, Irish legislator will open the door to potentially making Ireland the pensions administration capital of Europe," said Brian Buggy, partner at Matheson Ormsby Prentice.

"In addition, we already have the tax structure and pensions expertise in place to make this a reality."