EUROPE – A top-level group of experts has called on the European Commission to “provide succour” to help cross-border pension plans.

“The Commission should seek consistent member state implementation of the cross-border elements of the directive” on pension funds, the 23-member Expert Group on Insurance and Pensions said.

“The Commission should provide succour to pensions providers and companies developing international pension plans which to overcome the remaining hurdles, including tax.”

The group added: “This is particularly necessary where parties encounter difficulties availing themselves of the freedom afforded by the new directive.”

The comments come in a 29-page consultation report on the achievements of the Financial Service Action Plan. Three other groups reported on other industry segments.

The pensions group noted the large knowledge gap between market participants and those directly concerned with EU pensions legislation.

The report said that progress towards an integrated EU pensions market would be aided by “more formal, structured and closer industry consultation”. It also called for greater national dissemination of information on the new international market openings and easier access to information.

It also called for a “regulatory pause” to let industry digest the FSAP and other EU legislation.

“I would like to thank the expert groups for their excellent work,” said internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein. “Their reports define the terms of reference for the next phase of the stock-taking exercise – an open strategic debate in which views and comments are invited from all stakeholders.

“But to have the real impact on the markets that we want, we now need vigorous implementation and enforcement of what has been agreed politically.” He added: “Integrating financial markets means more efficient pension provision.”

The Commission said the four reports “suggest that it is too early to draw conclusions on the impact/effectiveness of FSAP measures”.

The deadline for written comments on the four reports is September 2004.