EUROPE - The EU's new IORP Directive will focus on principles and harmonising existing pensions systems, according to Martin Merlin, head of the financial services policy unit of the Directorate-General for the Internal Markets and Services.

Speaking during the Pension Forum in Rotterdam, Merlin said IORP II would be "more comprehensive and wider ranging" and provide a better definition of cross-border activities.

He added that the European Insurance and Occupational Pension Authority still needed to "flesh out" the new directive.

He said one of the aims of the IORP was to cut cross-border costs for employers by simplifying the legal, regulatory and administrative environment - for which an impact assessment will be carried out.

According to Merlin, following a public hearing about the IORP review in Brussels in March next year, the European Commission is expecting to launch its proposal in the third quarter of 2012.

Currently, 84 cross-border IORP schemes are operating in Europe, Merlin said.

"Much needs to be done, given the fact the total number of pension schemes in Europe is approximately 140,000," he said.

Merlin added that the Commission's Green Paper on pensions has triggered more than 1,600 responses from 350 organisations.

He said many respondents had called for tracking services to compile an overview of workers' pension rights in
EU member states, while others said the EU should continue to support national pension policies through supervision and co-ordination.

Merlin said a review of solvency rules for pension funds has made clear that most EU stakeholders felt Solvency II should not be "copied directly" into the new IORP Directive.

He said the review had also highlighted the need for a level playing field between IORPs and insurers that provide pension products.