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Public debate on the future of pensions launched
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07/07/2010 00:00:00

The European Commission has launched a Europe-wide public debate today on how the EU can best support member states in their difficult task of ensuring they provide their citizens with adequate, sustainable and safe pensions – both now and in the future.

Against the backdrop of demographic ageing and the additional challenges brought by the financial and economic crisis, the Green Paper seeks views on whether and how the EU level pension framework should be adjusted.

The paper does not make firm specific proposals at this stage, but poses a series of questions inviting all interested parties to contribute views, opinions and ideas on confronting the pension challenge - one of the biggest facing Europe and most parts of the world today – and how the EU can contribute to the solutions.

Presenting the consultation paper, with the full backing of Commissioners Olli Rehn (Economic and Monetary affairs) and Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services), László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion said:

 "The number of retired people in Europe compared to those financing their pensions is forecast to double by 2060 - the current situation is simply not sustainable. In addressing this challenge the balance between time spent in work and in retirement needs to be looked at carefully.”

Mr Andor added: “The choice we face is poorer pensioners, higher pension contributions or more people working more and longer. One of the great successes of Europe’s social model is to ensure that old age is not synonymous with poverty. This is a promise on which we have to continue to deliver and the dialogue we are launching today should help member states take the right decisions to ensure pension systemsare fit for purpose".

The Green Paper reviews the European pension framework in a holistic and integrated manner including areas such as: longer working lives, the internal market for pensions, mobility of pensions across the EU, gaps in EU regulation, the future solvency regime for pension funds, the risk of employer insolvency, informed decision-making and governance at EU level.

In particular, it addresses:

- ensuring adequate incomes in retirement and making sure pension systems are sustainable in the long term

- achieving the right balance between work and retirement and facilitating a longer active life

- removing obstacles to people who work in different EU countries and to the internal market for retirement products

- making pensions safer in the wake of the recent economic crisis, both now and in the longer term

- making sure pensions are more transparent so that people can take informed decisions about their own retirement income.

The paper makes clear many aspects of pension systems are the responsibility of member states, such as setting retirement ages and whether people should take out private pensions. But in areas where the EU has competence to legislate the Commission stands ready, and in particular to revise existing legislation, if it considers appropriate following analysis of replies to the consultation.

The regulatory framework at the EU level covers four main points:

1. cross border coordination of social security pensions to facilitate the free movement of workers and equal treatment for workers who change country;

2. establishing an internal market for funded occupational schemes and the necessary minimum standards on prudential rules to protect scheme members and beneficiaries;

3. minimum guarantees concerning occupational pensions and accrued rights in case of the insolvency of enterprises as sponsors;

4. anti-discrimination rules apply, although with some differentiation, to both statutory and private pension schemes.

Beyond this, there is a coordination process (the open method of coordination) used to facilitate and promote national reform, share best practice and set high level objectives and indicators.  At EU level the agreed objectives for pension systems are that they are adequate and sustainable, as well as being modern and transparent. 

The consultation period will run forfour months (ends 15 November 2010) during which anyone with an interest can submit their views via a dedicated website or in writing to European Commission, Green Paper on Pensions consultation, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities – Unit E4, B-1040 Brussels, Belgium.

The European Commission will then analyse all responses and consider the best course for future actions to address these issues at EU level.

    Background

    Ensuring an adequate and sustainable retirement income for EU citizens now and in the future is a priority for the EU. Achieving these objectives in an ageing Europe is a major challenge. Most countries in the EU have sought to prepare for this by reforming their pension systems.

    In 2008 there were four people of working age (15-64 years old) for every EU citizen aged 65 years or over. By 2060, that ratio will drop to two to one. The recent financial and economic crisis has aggravated and amplified the impact of these demographic trends. Setbacks in economic growth, public budgets, financial stability and employment have made it more urgent to adjust retirement practices and the way people build up entitlements to pensions. The crisis has revealed that more must be done to improve the efficiency and safety of pension schemes.

    A recent Eurobarometer survey found that 73 per cent of EU citizens either explicitly anticipate lower pension benefits or think they will have to postpone their retirement or save more money for old age ( IP/10/773). Meanwhile, 54 per cent are worried that their income in old age would be insufficient for them to live a decent life, including a majority in 17 of the EU's 27 member countries.

    Further information

    MEMO/10/302: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/10/302&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

    Green Paper and Commission Staff Working Document: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=839&furtherNews=yes

    Press conference by László ANDOR, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion – see 12.30 CET

    http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/ebs/schedule.cfm

    Online consultation: http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/ipm/forms/dispatch?form=pensions

    EU policy on pensions: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=752&langId=en

     

    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.

    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

    Last update: 31/10/2010  |Top