EUROPE – 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,” a European Free Trade Association spokesperson told IPE.

IPE has learnt that a decision to adopt the directive at a Joint Committee meeting in December 2005 was postponed without reason.

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.

EFTA today stated: “The decision was postponed at the request of Norway as they needed more time to conclude internal procedures.”

However, IPE sources in Norway have cited confusion and a lack of official response surrounding the adoption of the directive – formally 2003/41/EC - which was due to be transposed by all EU 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 said.

The person added the European Commission’s decision this week to increase the pressure on 11 EU member states for not fully implementing the directive was missing the three countries.

According to the expert, the directive is considered “heavy stuff” for the Norwegian pensions industry.

IPE understands that the Joint Committee will be meeting on April 26. However, the agenda for the meeting still doesn’t cover the incorporation of the directive into the EEA Agreement concerning EFTA-EU relations.

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.”

According to the spokesperson, the Norwegian Pension Fund Association has requested certain documents but has yet to receive them.

He added that Norway was not very anxious, however.

“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,” he told IPE.

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.