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EIOPA stakeholder groups seek greater visibility, impact

The stakeholder groups of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) want to increase the visibility and impact of their work, according to a joint statement that also rejected the European Commission’s questioning of their and other stakeholder groups’ value.

In a position paper, the Occupational Pensions Stakeholder Group (OPSG) and the Insurance and Reinsurance Stakeholder Group (IRSG) said both groups had undertaken “considerable work and provided valuable, broadly based and relevant input to EIOPA on a range of insurance and pensions issues by way of consultation responses and own initiative statements”.

The comment is part of the groups’ response to a report from the European Commission, published in August 2014, on the operation of the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) and the European System of Financial Supervision (ESFS).

EIOPA is one of the three ESAs, set up in the wake of the financial crisis. The ESAs, together with national authorities and the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) and another body, constitute the ESFS.

EIOPA is the only ESA to have two stakeholder groups, a unique feature it and industry members have defended after the European Commission suggested it should only have one group.

The argument for EIOPA to retain separate stakeholder groups for pensions and insurance is captured in the OPSG and IRSG response to the Commission’s 2014 report.

The Commission is due to publish a White Paper on the ESAs’ funding and governance this quarter.

An industry-wide levy rather than funding from the EU and national budgets is on the table.

In its position paper, the EIOPA stakeholder groups take issue with the Commission’s view that “the impact of Stakeholder Groups has been limited and the resources required to set them up and run them are extensive”.

Instead, the OPSG and IRSG represent “good value for money”, they said, with EIOPA information indicating that running both groups cost €135,000 in 2015, or 0.68% of the total budget.

The impact of the SGs’ work “is difficult to measure”, according to the groups.

In their position paper, they note that, although there is evidence EIOPA does take on board detailed comments from the SGs, “there is a feeling from the SGs that, when an SG expresses a strong disagreement with or concern about an EIOPA proposal, while the concern is listened to, the ability to impact EIOPA’s direction is limited”.

The paper continues: “This is further strengthened by the fact there seems to be little awareness of the SGs’ role and their opinions outside of EIOPA.”

Commission attendance ‘disappointing’

To increase the impact and visibility of their work, the OPSG and IRSG suggested several changes.

These include allowing for direct exchanges between the SGs and EIOPA’s board of supervisors, involvement in parliamentary hearings with the chair of EIOPA, and more interaction with the Commission.

The first point, according to the position paper, could involve the board of supervisors inviting representatives from a SG to provide views on a topic to be discussed, which “would be especially of value if a decision were to be made where the SG has strong concerns or a view that differs from the proposals made by EIOPA”.

As to the second, the stakeholder groups said it “would be useful” to attend and contribute to meetings of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) when the chair of EIOPA is reporting to it.

A similar recommendation is made in relation to the Commission, with which the stakeholder groups believe they should have more involvement.

Philip Shier, who was chair of the OPSG until the group started a new, third mandate last month, said it was “disappointing that a representative of the European Commission was unable to join the meetings on a regular basis, as the group felt this would be beneficial to all parties”.

In their position paper, the OPSG and IRSG recommended a Commission representative attend SG meetings on a regular basis “to be aware of the discussions and views”.

Another suggestion is for the Commission “to confirm it has considered the SGs’ opinions when it takes advice from EIOPA and to have a discussion with the SGs where the SG’s opinions differ from EIOPA’s advice”.

Shier’s comment was made in a foreword to an activity report for the OPSG that was in office from September 2013 until March this year.

That was the second term for the OPSG, with 21 of the 30 members stepping down at the end of its mandate.

The new OPSG, which will be in office until September 2018, had its first meeting last month.

Matti Leppälä, previously deputy chair, succeeded Shier as chair of what is the third OPSG.

In his foreword to the OPSG activity report – his “labour of love” for the past few weeks, as he recently told IPE – Shier said the primary objective of the recommendations made about the role of stakeholder group is “maximising the benefit the European institutions (and European citizens) obtain from the work done by the SGs”.

Separately, the activity report includes suggestions for improvement of future OPSGs, which were drawn from comments made by OPSG members at the end of the second group’s mandate.

These include providing information to newly appointed members, possibly by way of an EIOPA induction course, that all own initiative reports clearly identify the target audience and objective before a relevant project commences.

Another suggestion is to allow for a “transition process” between OPSG mandates to avoid certain issues being missed during the changeover period.

This happened this year, as the last OPSG was unable to complete a response to an EIOPA consultation on an EU single market for personal pension products (PPPs) before its mandate expired, but the deadline for responses (26 April) was before the first meeting of the new OPSG (28 April).

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