EUROPE - Two MEPs are to confront the European Commission over the failure by member states to properly implement the EU directive on occupational pensions once the September 23 deadline has passed.

At a meeting of the European Parliamentary Pension Forum yesterday, Dutch MEP Ieke van den Burg and Austrian MEP Othmar Karas signalled that they would be writing to the Commission to ask which member states failed to implement the directive within the given timeframe and why.

Karas was the rapporteur for the directive – officially, Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision – to the Parliament.

Van den Burg said that it was important for the Commission to keep Parliament informed of progress in this respect.

The Commission maintains that all member states will meet the deadline. Ivo van Es, the Commission official in charge of the implementation of the directive, told the meeting: “We fully expect all member states to fulfil their obligations. We can’t allow member states to be late.”

However, van Es did concede that there could be some danger of slippage in certain member states, and hinted that the emergence of new governments in some countries would put pressure on the implementation timetable.

The Commission has held two expert meetings recently, one in October 2004 and one in April 2005, to assess the state of progress in member states and offer support to those countries that are falling behind.

Chris Verhaegen, secretary general of the European Federation for Retirement Provision, expressed a somewhat different view, saying that it now seems likely that no member states will meet the September 23 deadline, although she says that most will have the legal framework in place.

Van Es pointed out that one of the key difficulties with getting the directive on to member states’ statute books is that it sits somewhere between financial services and social security. “Countries tend to become very edgy when they see the EU trying to impinge on their pensions systems,” he said.

He added that his department has worked on the directive from an internal market, rather than social services, point of view, and insisted that it should be implemented in a way that is consistent with the principals of free movement of services.