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Revised IORP Directive could be 'impossible' to pass, MEP warns

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  • The European Commission

The revised IORP Directive could remain “impossible” as European Union member states continue their opposition to Brussels being granted the requisite competences, the MEP charged with scrutinising European pensions legislation has said.

However, Thomas Händel, elected this week as chairman of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL), said it was still important for him and his four committee colleagues to continue the push for a more integrated employment market, including a focus on pension matters.

The MEP, a member of Die Linke – the left-leaning opposition party to Germany’s governing grand coalition – told IPE the “main question” for EMPL in the coming years would be how to address issues of social equality by addressing workers rights.

Asked about the passage of the revised IORP Directive, published by internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier in March, he said he believed it would “remain impossible” so long as any of the 28 member states “oppose and deny any EU competences”.

“In addition, the very different systems might be impossible to equalise,” he said.

Händel said he was uncertain whether any elements of the former Portability Directive, revived last year after Barnier dropped more stringent capital requirements from the revised IORP Directive, would once again be discussed.

“Concerning certain elements of the Portability Directive,” Händel said, “we have to wait for the first exchange of views between the political groups here in the Parliament.

“But the increase of eurosceptics and the anti-EU movement will not make it easier to discuss the free movement of workers, and therefore pensions as well.”

The Portability Directive was eventually passed by Parliament in April as a directive on supplementary pensions rights.

It introduced universal vesting periods for benefit accrual but backed away from 2005’s initial suggestion that rights should be transferable when a worker moves to a new employer.

Händel, now in his second term as an MEP, said he hoped a parliamentary majority could be found to “ensure the promise” made by the EU decades ago to create an environment where employees were free to work and live wherever they chose.

“That necessarily means everyone should have the right to take pension credits with him, wherever he chooses to live,” he said.

His comments come after the newly elected deputy chairman of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) – in charge of tax affairs, as well as scrutiny of proposals to allow the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority to raise a direct levy to fund itself – said the pensions industry should not cry foul, as it had never been hit.

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