EUROPE – The European insurance industry body, the Comité Européen des Assurances, has called for a “prudent” approach to pensions portability at the European level.

“Via the EU Commission Pension Forum, CEA has stressed that flexible instruments (recommendations, guidelines, codes of best practice) should be adopted, so as to respect the large diversity of supplementary pension schemes in the EU,” the CEA said in a newsletter.

“A prudent community approach which does not prejudice the commitments made in existing national schemes is desirable.”

The Brussels-based group, which represents Europe’s national insurance associations, said insurers have a “twofold concern in this matter”. Firstly, as important players in the occupational pensions industry. Secondly, as employers of more than a million people.

It added it has “always supported the setting up of a common EU framework to ensure the protection of occupational pension rights in case of labour mobility”.

The group also called for “further technical studies” and said it would continue discussing the issue “in the framework of its social dialogue with unions at EU level”.

A plenary public meeting of the European Parliamentary Pension Forum has been set for April 20 in Strasburg, where pensions portability will be on the agenda. The CEA added that the European Commission could table a draft directive on the issue this autumn.

Meanwhile, the CEA also said that life insurance premium income of its members fell 2.3% in 2003. “Life insurance premium income in 2003 totalled 506 billion euros compared with 529 billion euros in 2002, i.e. a drop of 2.3% (inflation-adjusted), said the CEA, citing provisional figures provided by its members.

Spain and the UK fell 35.5% and 13.9% respectively, it said in a report. “In Spain, the drop was due to the ending of the externalisation process for Spanish company pension commitments in December 2002.”