The European Commission is about to announce the appointment of a key decision maker for pension regulation, understands Jeremy Woolfe.

Europe's new set of rules for occupational pensions – Brussels is expected to unveil the revised IORP Directive in June or July – is to get a new boss.

In a surprise move, the current head of unit for pensions and insurance, Karel Van Hulle, is to leave his post at the end of February and will in fact retire entirely from his long-held position as an official.

The European Commission, answering a set of 15 specific questions – concerning interviews taking place to select a replacement, for example – produced a fairly terse statement: "Karel Van Hulle, head of unit for insurance and pensions, will retire on 28 February 2013 after a long and distinguished career in the European Commission (he joined in 1984). It has not yet been decided who will replace him."

In fact, the bare bones of the replacement procedure are that the Commission issues an advertisement, internally, for the vacancy.

For a head of unit post, there would be a large number of responses. Applicants would not be only from the DG concerned, in this case Internal Market.

The large number would be partly because promotion from policy officer level to head of unit could set the candidate off on a route to further promotions, the next in line being deputy director.

Candidates would be processed by interview boards comprising more senior officials.

The selection process appears to be somewhat secretive, possibly to clamp down on pressures from external lobby groups.  

The final authority for the selection is the director general of the DG concerned, in this case Jonathan Faull.

However, in this case, a bystander informs IPE that, unofficially, the candidate has been selected.

His name is unknown among general staff in the DG, but probably Van Hulle himself is well in the picture.

Unusually, he is already at the rank of head of unit. The apparent sideways move is because a well-experienced official is called for to cope with the post Van Hulle is vacating.

Burdens are heavy. The position deals with legislation concerning long-term investors to cover future pension liabilities, in both the occupational pension sector and in insurance. Influence is on investments totalling what could be around €8trn.

Van Hulle tells IPE that, after February, he wishes to concentrate more on his teaching activity.

"I want to tell young people about Europe – the good and the bad, as I see it," he explains.
He has been carrying out after-hours activity as an associate professor at the law department of the Catholic University of Leuven, in Flemish Belgium. His subject is Belgian and European accounting law.  

"I shall not be lobbying," he states, with a laugh.