EUROPEAN DIRECTIVE SPECIAL – Austrian MEP and Parliament Rapporteur for the European pensions directive, Othmar Karas, has followed today’s landmark vote in the Parliament by calling for immediate action in the European Commission and the Ecofin Council of Ministers.

The two-thirds majority vote in favour of his occupational pensions report in the Parliament, he said, put the ball firmly in the court of the Ecofin Council, which he again slammed for having no position on the report:
“ I’m very happy with the vote today. The ball is now with the Council and the Commission.
“The Council is not working very hard but the Parliament has worked very hard.
“ It is now very important for the Commission to see the problems in the Council and take the viewpoint of the Parliament. I hope the Commission is on our side because it needs a directive for the second pillar.”

The directive needs the bilateral support of the both the Parliament and the Ecofin council before it can become law. The Commission acts as a go-between for the two bodies.

Karas notes: “We need a common decision between the two. We can discuss this very quickly, but when the position of the Council is very different from our position or they have no position, then it is very hard for us.
“ I will not accept that we work hard and then the Council blocks this decision.”

Commenting on rumours of resistance from at least six countries in the Ecofin Council on the issue of investment rules, he adds: “I have heard this, but I think our position can also be a compromise to have a limit date for the quantitative rules and have one manual rule.
“ But I think we have to follow the thinking of the United Kingdom that we need more freedom for investment in the second pillar.
“ It was a good day for the parliament.”
“ The result is a very good compromise between more liberalisation for the financial services and European financial markets and on the other hand for the social security for employee pensions.”

A meeting of the Ecofin Council is scheduled for October.
However, Karas believes this itself is still too long to wait: “ This is very late. The Council has no position in terms of qualitative and quantitative rules. They have problems with the scope of the directive and they also have problems on investment, but this (prudent person rule) is the main point, because the second pillar is not the first pillar. We don’t need more quantitative investment rules we need more freedom for investment.”

Concluding, he points to the Lamfalussy report and it’s call for swift resolution of financial services issues as justification for his frustration:
“ The problem in all these questions is not the Parliament it is the Council and all these national interests.”