EUROPE - The European Commission's White Paper on pensions is a necessary step in the development of a pan-European pensions policy, but barriers over the implementation of such a directive remain, experts have claimed.

While pension fund associations across Europe broadly welcomed a draft version of the paper, some industry figures questioned the wisdom of releasing such an important policy document when consultations on the second IORP directive were ongoing.

Jerry Moriarty, director of policy at the Irish Association of Pension Funds, told IPE: "It is clear that, looking across all of Europe, we are facing an important ageing population that declines the strength of countries' finances.

"In that context, something has to be done, as we cannot continue to keep increasing our amount of expenditure on pensions if we do not have the financial resources to do so."

But Moriarty pointed out that the pension industry was already digesting a 500-page document on the review of the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision directive.

He added: "It would have probably made sense to discuss the principles of the White Paper first, before moving onto the details that are now in the new IORP directive."

A draft version of the White Paper was leaked last week; a revised version is expected to be published on 13 December.

Moriarty said he was also concerned about the Commission's call to strengthen Europe's complementary pension system.

"There is a risk that not all member states will manage to implement a complementary system," he said. "For some countries that are already along that way, it is probably not so much of a concern. But for states that are only starting, implementing such a system might be a long and difficult process."

Chris Verhaegen, secretary general at the European Federation for Retirement Provision, told IPE the Commission would sooner or later be forced to develop more "coherent" lines on pensions.

"Of course, member states should remain responsible for the structure of their pension system," she said. "But it is necessary that the Commission embark on an exercise to improve the terminology, implying some kind of taxonomy of the European pension system."

The Dutch Pension Federation said it appreciated the fact the draft White Paper highlighted the importance of sustainable pensions across the whole of the EU.

Gerard Riemen, director, praised the Commission for having taken into account "all aspects" for the development of an EU policy on pensions.

"Subsidiarity remains key to us," he said. "Brussels should focus only on the issues that haven't been adequately addressed by member states themselves."

According to Riemen, an example of the issues the EU should be regulating include the removal of obstacles for the movement of labour in a number of countries, noting that these obstacles were not currently under discussion in the Netherlands.

"We further welcome that the White Paper emphasises that EU citizens must have an insight into their pensions rights," he added. "We are thus keen to make our experience with the Pensions Register available as an example of how insight into pension rights can easily be made accessible."

In the leaked draft of the White Paper, the European Commission encourages member states to implement wide-ranging pension reforms and suggests it will provide them with financial support, while urging the abolition of mandatory retirement ages.

It also urges member states to find ways of improving access to complementary retirement instruments by extending the coverage of "cost-effective and safe" supplementary pension schemes.