EUROPE - Creating a pan-European pension fund for mobile researchers would not be in the interest of the members of such a scheme, according to representatives at the conference of the European Association of Public Sector Pension Institutions (EAPSPI) in Berlin.

The European Commission launched a review last year into the creation of a pan-European pension vehicle for mobile researchers and made that part of a feasibility study on portability which is currently drawn up by Hewitt Associates. (See earlier IPE story: Hewitt awarded EC cross-border feasibility study)

"Such a pan-European scheme would not serve the interests of the researchers working at various institutions across Europe, and not in ours," said Wolf R. Thiel, chairman of EAPSPI and president of the German fund for public employees VBL.

Almost all of these researchers in Germany are working in public institutes, including those at universities, and are insured with VBL.

Thiel fears that a pan-European fund would be too small to be effective and that the costs of this fund would be shifted to the members.

"The researchers would be better off being covered by larger, already existing national institutes."

Klaus Stürmer, CEO of the German Association of Local and Church Pension Schemes (AKA), told IPE that he too fears a pan-European pension vehicle "served other interests than the members".

He claimed a pan-European pension fund was mainly in the interest of investment managers and large international companies which aimed to reduced the costs of their pension provision.

"But they are not interested in creating mobility of individuals with such a vehicle as they would not want workers to be able to switch to their competitors easily," he argued.

Another question yet to be addressed, claimed delegates, was who would run a fund for all researchers as such a vehicle could only work "if all the European universities supported the idea and worked together - and that is unlikely".

"We need a different solution," stressed Thiel, adding: "Mobility does not necessarily need to mean transferring pension rights from one country to another."

"In fact, many smaller pension accounts make up a bigger sum than the transfer of funds which can be very difficult."

Wim Moes from the Dutch APG said there is currently a discussion in Holland suggesting, given the recent crisis, that it maybe not a good idea to have all pension rights in one institution.

He noted the Netherlands is currently working on a national pension register similar to that in Sweden, while Stürmer added Germany was also thinking about such a step.

Thiel called on all European countries to let the EAPSPI know which institutions are responsible for the pensions of researchers, so a list of people can be drawn up who should come together for a discussion.

"If we do not find a solution the EU commission will," he stressed.