EUROPE – Austrian MEP, Othmar Karas, the European Parliament rapporteur for the occupational pensions directive, has slammed the Ecofin Council of Ministers for its lack of progress in taking a position on the proposed legislation.

Speaking to IPE-Newsline directly after last night’s (June 19) crucial vote by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on his directive report, Karas said he was angered at the speed of discussion at ministerial level – part of the joint EU process required for any legislation to be passed.

“ Firstly the Ecofin Council must have a proposal – a decision. That is the point. Then I hope that the Ecofin Council of Ministers will discuss the position of the Parliament, because this is a co-decision process. The Council needs a compromise with the Parliament and the Council now has the chance to discuss also the position of the Parliament.
“ I am very angry that the Council is so late, because the proposal of the Commission was made public in October last year.
“ There are many council working groups which are discussing this, but we need a decision!”

Karas adds that Ecofin’s tardiness flies in the face of what was agreed under the Lamfalussy report on securities market regulation.
“ Look what the Lamfalussy report says. It says we must be quicker in the area of financial services. The Ecofin council in Sweden two months ago decided that they agreed with the Lamfalussy report. First, there is a main agreement for a directive, then the parliament decides its position. But now we have no position from the Council!”

He continues: “ This is not a problem of the Parliament – we have decided very early and we have a clear position. We are waiting for the work of the Council and I hope the Council can follow our position today.”

The Karas report will be considered by a full plenary of the European Parliament on July 3 in the morning, where the draft agenda will be discussed.
The draft directive will then go to a probable vote the following day.
In a clear sign of how difficult the vote could be, proposed amendments to the Karas report ran to around 230 different points.
But Karas feels the tide is moving in his favour.
“ On three or four points the decision was not my proposal. In more than 99% of decisions it was my proposal.
“ Ninety per cent of my compromise proposals were accepted and so I think that it is a good result for the beginning of the discussion with the Council
“ I am happy that the Parliament has a decision. There is more liberalisation than the original Commission proposal.
“ But, on the other hand, there are more common social principles.
“ It’s a good compromise and I hope that we have quite a mature vote on it in the Plenary.”

Now we are waiting for the reaction of the Commission and the decision process of the Council.
The Commission has to react before the Plenary.
“ The problem now is not the Commission or the Parliament it is the timetable of the Ecofin Council. If the Ecofin council discuss the commission’s proposals and the position of the parliament in October – that is very late.
We need this directive as a first step for cross-border membership of companies and also for the beginning of the euro coins introduction.