The European Economic Area states of Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein have seemingly been left out in the cold regarding the adoption of the European occupational pension funds directive.
“The directive has not been passed in the Joint Committee for the EEA EFTA states,” according to a European Free Trade Association spokesperson.
A decision to adopt the directive at a Joint Committee meeting in December 2005 was postponed without a reason being given. According to one Norwegian pensions expert, the deadline for taking up EU directives is the same for both EU member states and EEA EFTA countries.
But EFTA stated late last month: “The decision was postponed at the request of Norway as they needed more time to conclude internal procedures.” But, IPE sources in Norway have cited confusion and a lack of official response surrounding the adoption of the directive which was due to be transposed by member states by 23 September 2005.
“We ask questions, we don’t get any answers. We have no excuse or understanding of why nothing has happened,” the pensions expert in Norway said, adding that the directive is considered “heavy stuff” for the Norwegian pensions industry.
As IPE went to press the Joint Committee was to meet again, though, the agenda for the meeting did not cover the incorporation of the directive into the EEA Agreement.
According to a spokesperson for the Norwegian Pension Fund Association: “We have difficulties to find out what has happened. I asked the EEA about this but we have not got a very clear answer. They haven’t given an excuse for the delay in accepting the directive.
“We are trying to find out what discussions have taken place, and `what they actually have done.”
He pointed out “Even if the EEA has not decided yet to adopt the directive, we have started to implement it in Norwegian law, so the process has started even if there is no formal adoption”
The EFTA spokesperson could not tell IPE when the directive would be adopted. “That’s up to the member states, so I just do not know,” he said.
q Meanwhile, the EC has ratcheted up the pressure on 11 member states it says have not fully implemented the occupational pension funds directive. It has sent a so-called ‘reasoned opinion’ – the second stage in an infringement procedure – to the countries concerned. The next step is to take them to the European Court of Justice.
“The Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the UK for not having written Directive 2003/41/EC on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORP Directive) into their national laws, or for having done so only partially,” the EC said.