Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 8

WHILE in France the debate on pensions ’ reform reached the critical point, in aperiod when traditional values are often questioned, while other European countries faced the thorny problem concerning retirement regime balance, the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (*) was choosing the slogan for its 10th annual Forum: to the European retirement.

It could seem a utopian and illogical choise. Mr. Hubertus ARRANDT, ex German Work and Social Affair Secretary and European officer, who took part in this debate, admitted that –after six years in the European Commission– the slogan they chose took it by surprise and he could say that no harmonization as regards retirement systems had been planned up to now.

Unless it is carried out from a technical standpoint, according to the difficult current situation, it is obvious that it could be impossible to create a single system.

Unless you are a fortune-teller or a clairvoyant, it is no easy to discover how can we implement in Europe a project that is likely nonviable in France.

For this reason, the Forum debate thought it best to put this problem to coming generations. In fact, we can ensure that everything that is impossible today, tomorrow will not exists. Nations’ HISTORY has often played a dirty trick on our statements and our beliefs and our certainty has often collapsed.

To the European retirement. This subject appeared for the first time on the occasion of the Chiefs of Staff summit in 2000 in Lisbon.

If we bet, as the participants to this 10th Forum did, on the creation of a European retirement, we must contemplate some important questions:

Why a European system? Which advantages can we have? How can we carry it out?

The European currency favours and it will favour more and more the work mobility. This situation will induce to adopt a European social protection that will lead to a kind of 'minimum social pension'. This is the result of the agreements concluded in Lisbon. This is the European Parliament’s wish when it refers to a 'collective social protection'.

To the European retirement. Do the European citizens agree about converging their retirement systems?

Nowadays Europe is in no position to carry out a retirement harmonization. First of all, retirement is a competence derived from subsidiarity. Although there are multiple systems,

in the near future, we will need to look for a constructive approach to the problem, since the European enlargment constitutes a challange for the European social model as long as systems are more heterogenous every time.

To the European retirement. It could seem feasible if we differentiate between funds and way (**).

A real harmonization (based on legal rules) would be bound to fail. But, if we consider union as the best method (search for an approach from the current systems), our hopes make sense. This is the European Commission’s opinion at the moment. The cooperation begun and it was called 'Open Method of Coordination'.

Its main role consists in searching for common points in order to create a European system that, if it can not be a single system, at least coherent and homogeneous.

However, it is hard to believe in a rapid agreement among 15 or 25 European countries since there are too many differences and retirement is still one of the pillars of the national identity.

However, some important questions that 10 or 15 years ago seemed unattainable or Utopian have received a response. As for retirement we can think that the economy would ensure a collective awareness.

Robert Holzmann, World Bank Director, stated (literal words): 'If there is no cooperation between the member countries and nobody reflects deeply on the retirement system reform, some countries will have some difficulties obeying the rules established in Maastricht. On the other hand the professional and geographic mobility, now at its fist stage, will cause the creation of a minimum social pension. That’s how rights achieved in a member country are valid in another member country'.

Some recent polls show that European citizen are worried about the retirement guarantee and replacement taxes.

The fact is that every member country that decides to reform its retirement system is worried about workers interests. However, as well as words and ideas, we realize workers run the main risk.

Retirement is a right achieved by work and all common declarations in the European summit are not enough:

• we need to find the guiding principles to bring together the common salaried workers interests since they enjoy best mobility in a European market more open every time.

• we need to find the means to resolve thier social worries.

• we need to offer pensioners a better European legal security.

To the European retirement. It is a challange that coming generations will have to face up. But it is only an aspect of a challange that the European Union must accept to achieve a social model, an integral part of the general European challange.

Jean-Claude Chretien
Vice-president of the National Federation of Retired Staff
from Savings Banks in France

(*) Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation is a financial and managing institution belonging to retirement savings banks associated with EULIA, the savings banks’ financial Group.
(**) CoverAGE.