Ieke Van den Burg, the Dutch MEP and European Parliament rapporteur on pensions taxation issues, presented her key report considering the proposals of EC Commissioner Frits Bolkestein to the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (EMAC) on September 13.
In it she called on the European Commission to present an action plan on pensions by the time of the EU summit in Barcelona in Spring 2002.
Pensions, she noted, was an issue at the “top of the agenda” for next spring’s summit of EU leaders in Barcelona and also a priority for the Belgian leadership of the EU and the forthcoming Laken summit.
But significantly, Van den Burg, a member of the European Socialist Party and a substitute member of the EMAC committee, softened the line that she had taken earlier this year when Bolkestein presented his taxation ‘Communication’ – a dilution of the stronger directive that had been called for by many.
Talking to IPE, Van den Burg concedes that she has changed her position somewhat, having been resistant to what she previously dubbed a ‘watered-down directive’. “We had a hearing and there was a change of view. Most of the members decided that it wasn’t realistic to expect a directive and this was the background for Bolkestein’s decision.”
However, in the report she reiterates her belief that there is much more to do on pensions than the Commission has suggested in its Communication.
“Bolkestein is only looking at one aspect, discrimination and that is only for a minor group – people who are moving between countries and want to stay in their home state pension fund.
“I am also looking at quality aspects for pensions and trying to make pensions part of the open co-ordination policy of the EU started in Gothenburg and Stockholm.
“I want to get the tax question on to the agenda and I think it has to be included because it is linked to labour mobility and the future of pensions.”
Van den Burg points out that European leaders reiterated their belief at the recent Stockholm summit that labour mobility was a very important issue, and that there was also a necessity to stimulate capital funding systems for the future, which the Dutch MEP says would seem to support the EET issue.
The rapporteur says she also wants to see bilateral tax issues shifted to a multilateral level and has included more practical suggestions on cross-border information sharing for pensions in her report.
Earlier this year, Van den Burg also expressed her disappointment that the important EET pensions tax discussion had been brushed over by the Commission, noting: “On this point, I think the Commission should have come forward with a much stronger proposal.
“The recommendation that member states should move towards the EET is very prudently stated.”
A spokesperson for Van den Burg said that while the September 13 report was largely welcomed by the EMAC committee, there had been some resistance from Luxembourg, a TEE state (taxed, exempt, exempt) over the rapporteur’s support for a Europe wide switch to the EET system for tax on pensions.
Following the presentation of the Van den Burg report, there is now a deadline within the EMAC committee for amendments and a possible EMAC vote in mid-October, before it goes to the plenary.