12 February 2019

ITEM brings science, politics and practice together

On 28 January, the eighth edition of the Maastricht Pension Seminar took place. The theme of the meeting was 'Pension: Outside in - Pension in Europe: The Netherlands the last dinosaur?’. In the same week, ITEM received Stefan Lenzen (Freie Demokratische Partei from Germany) to talk about topics on cross-border labour market. Director of ITEM Prof. Anouk Bollen: "By entering into a dialogue with the outside world, we can collect and help tackle the most pressing questions from society in the area of cross border issues.”

Pension in the EU

Experts from the Netherlands and abroad attended the pension seminar and shed light on the latest developments in the field of pensions, particularly the relationship between the Netherlands and the EU. In Europe, there is a wide range of approaches that take different stands to characterisation, social and labour legislation, financing, tax guidance and responsibilities when it comes to pension. “Within this European pension field, the strength of the Netherlands is the high level of the state pension (AOW) together with the fact that there is cooperation between the various departments involved in pensions”, said Prof. Yves Stevens of KU Leuven. During the seminar, participants discussed the different views and shared ideas on what we could learn from each other.  There was also room for political perspectives on the current situation.

In this context, Member of Parliament Pieter Omtzigt gave a presentation in which, among other things, he discussed European interference in the Dutch pension system. Omtzigt indicated that, despite the fact that the Netherlands still scores well in the field of pensions in different rankings, participants are quite dissatisfied. Moreover, the Netherlands scores rather badly on the possibility of owning a home through pension, which in Omtzigt's opinion is an important part of the pension provision. Another problem he believes has been underexposed in the major debate, is that of democratic legitimacy. As a result of the IORP guidelines, it’s possible to move a pension fund from the Netherlands to another member state. "This means a discoordination will arise between where someone votes and where someone's pension is placed, which is life-threatening for democratic legitimacy," according to Omtzigt.

 View all presentations and photos of the Pension Seminar

Cross-border labour market

As part of a working visit, ITEM received Stefan Lenzen, spokesman for employment, social affairs and integration of the FDP Landtagsfraktion Northrhine-Westphalia on 1 February. The visit was also attended by Jacques Michel Bloi, coordinator of cross-border cooperation for the VVD and European Parliament candidate. The visit’s purpose was to exchange views on the possibilities for improving the cross-border labour market.

A number of issues were discussed: the usefulness and necessity of building a joint database in the form of a roadmap for three countries (NL, BE, GER) such as the cross border portal, building structural networks on both sides of the border to ensure quick information exchange and the further development of existing border information points. With regard to the latter point, it was emphasised that openness and transparency are important in order to gain insight into border problems. This isn’t easy, due to differences in culture and also in systems. More service points are needed to reach residents in border areas. To tackle these issues, it is important to act together, the group concluded.

ITEM director Prof. Anouk Bollen: "It’s important for ITEM to continuously be in touch with the outside world; from policy makers to citizens. Only then, we can meet challenges in the field of cross-border cooperation. An important part of this is to establish a dialogue with politics and government. Our role is to identify bottlenecks in the field and, by means of research (fundamental and applied), to suggest possible solutions and give advice. In that capacity, we are regularly asked by (local) politicians to provide them with substantive information on cross-border issues such as social security, mobility and recognition of qualifications.”

F.l.t.r. Stefan Lenzen, Anouk Bollen, Jacqueline de Groot, Jacques Michel Bloi, Patrick Schunn