EUROPE - Othmar Karas, the European Parliament rapporteur for the occupational pensions directive, has hit out at the lack of progress made in the ECOFIN meeting of October 16 and accused the Council of Ministers of delaying tactics over the pensions debate.

Reacting to the lack of direction offered by ECOFIN, Karas said expectations had been deflated, pointing out that “nothing had been done”.

Referring to the questionnaires sent out to member states and cited by the Council as part of the work in progress, he added that they gave little information that wasn’t already known.
“There is nothing new here. We think that it was just a bit of a time delay to prolong the debate.”
“It seems that the results of the questionnaires will only be available to working groups and that there will not be any decision taken until the Spanish take over the presidency of the EU.”

Karas says the Parliament is now planning to directly question the Council at the next plenary where pensions will be on the agenda - starting on November 12.
“We will ask the Council why it is not moving this issue forward.
“We will ask how they can be credible because they know that pension schemes are a very important part of the Lisbon action plan.
“We are going to stress this to them and ask how they are going to address this.”

Karas added that the Parliament had the support of EC Commissioner Frits Bolkestein over the delays.
He adds that the Parliament is also “thinking aloud” about ways of applying more political pressure on the Council and may attempt to lay down a table of deadlines for all the interested parties to reach decisions within the next six weeks.
“We want to have a period where the institutions have to work on this, because in regards to the Lamfalussy agreement we have to have something, otherwise the rights of the Parliament will have decreased on this matter and our endeavours are fruitless.”