One solution to the “impossibility” of harmonising occupational pension systems across the European Union, due to conflicting social and labour laws, could be a “29th regime”, delegates at EIOPA’s pensions conference heard in Frankfurt.

The system could operate in parallel with national schemes, suggested Karel Lannoo, chief executive at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a Brussels-based think tank.

He said the regime would be the “29th” because there are 28 different jurisdictions in the EU, so it would operate under a new one.

The new regime could be optional for both companies and beneficiaries, Lannoo said.

The scheme could be made to be sufficiently solid to be safe for outside investors.

He implied that a 29th regime could help solve the problem of management costs of national schemes varying from 0.1% to as much as 1.4%.

Lannoo’s proposal followed the question: “Why can the EU not have a single European pension product?”

It came from Allan Polack, chief executive of asset management at Denmark’s Nordia.

Polack said such a product that would provide a higher level of professionalism, give a long-term investment perspective and should have a cross-border function.

The theme was echoed by Klaus Wiedner, head of unit for insurance and pensions at the European Commission’s internal market DG.

“You need to activate scale,” he said, “and this can only be done at the European level.”