Pensions policy a 'European' issue following Greek bailout – EFRP
EUROPE - Pensions policy in the wake of the Greek bailout should no longer be considered the sole province of national governments, according to the European Federation of Retirement Provision (EFRP).
Speaking in the UK parliament at a Work and Pensions select committee hearing on EU pensions policy, EFRP secretary general Matti Leppälä spoke of the importance of a coordinated, continent-wide agenda as set by the European Commission through its White Paper on Pensions.
"If the member states do not take care of the public finances, of which pensions are the biggest component, it will be everybody's problem - so it is within the interest of the European Union to have stability in the public finances and in any other part of the financial market," he said.
Leppälä referenced the strained households of a number of euro-zone member states when making the case for coordinated action.
"It was an academic debate before Greece whether other member states were responsible for other countries' disasters and liabilities, but anybody who has a sense of what is actually happening within the monetary union doesn't make this claim anymore," he said.
His views were in stark contrast to a number of UK representatives speaking at the committee, with Neil Carberry, head of employment at the CBI, insisting that pensions were a significant issue in the national political debate.
Referencing controversial tax allowance changes unveiled for pensioners in last week's UK Budget, he said: "The design of the pension system is very specific to each member state, so no other European country is particularly interested what the personal pensioner allowance in the UK is - but it dominated the political debate here."
Joanne Segars, chief executive at the National Association of Pension Funds, who stressed that pensions should predominantly be a national issue, shared Carberry's view.
"We all have concerns about pensioner poverty and adequacy, but, predominantly, the method by which pensions are provided are a national competence because they are so intrinsically linked to national taxation legislation and social and labour laws," she said.
However, Leppälä also highlighted the importance of Brussels instigating and leading the debate over pensions reform, rather than legislating.
Looking back at more than a decade of pensions policy, he said it was important to gain an understanding of the problem facing each system, and that best practice and peer review was vital and "much better" than new legislation imposed centrally.
"It is important Europe makes the member states face these problems," he said. "If one looks at one member state, it looks like you have your own problem, but if you have a wider look, there is a European agenda."