Interview Bruno Gabellieri Secretary General AEIP Expert Facilitator Serving European Ideals
Global Benefits Vision: What is AEIP’s mission in general terms and how does it relate to global employee benefits?
Bruno Gabellieri: AEIP is mainly a lobbyist organization; it is registered as a special-interest lobby with the European Parliament and the European Commission. I am also registered with EIOPA as an independent member of the occupational pensions stakeholder group, because I’m the Secretary-General of AEIP.
AEIP’s main mission is the promotion of the paritarian model across Europe but it is not limited to that; it deals with the entire area of the development of social protection. Pensions is the main focus but AEIP also deals with the health sector, life insurance, disability plans, unemployment schemes, and safety in the workplace, which is a key subject nowadays among all stakeholders: insurers, employers, unions, regulators, and governments.
We are at the center of the process when the European Commission creates new rules and regulations. At the beginning of an EU legislative or policy initiative we normally act as an advisor, to see if the regulation is correct and in alignment with the needs of corporations, employees, and beneficiaries such as dependents or retirees.
Our second mission is to defend the paritarian model and paritarian organizations when they come under attack, for example, by some new regulations envisioned by a government, or perhaps by some actors against a collective agreement with a mandatory designation, as might be the case in France, the Netherlands, Germany or Belgium.
We also promote the paritarian approach with social partners at both the national level and the pan-European level. We created task forces in the construction sector, the metal industry, and the health industry, working with employer organizations and unions for working on concrete subjects. We also promoted the idea internationally with partners who share our values, like NCCMP in the United States, MEBCO in Canada and ASFA in Australia.
GBV: Is it fair to say that your scope is broader than that of the private employee benefits industry, as you cover, for example, unemployment and Worker’s Comp?
BG: Exactly. We cover all the social protection areas that are the key elements of the debates today, including pension and health care systems and long-term care. Because of the financial crisis, unemployment is also a key subject, along with workplace safety, including stress, wellness, and musculoskeletal diseases. These are key areas of concern for the future.
Even widow and orphan plans are part of the things we look at. AEIP has 37 members across Europe, and the social protection systems of each country may or may not include benefits such as allowances for children. As long as a benefit is provided in at least one member country, it is of interest to us.
GBV: Can you tell us a little about the history of AEIP?
BG: I am not the father of AEIP; I’m just the child of the founding fathers. The fathers of AEIP are together a French organization of provident societies, CTIP, a German federation, BKK, an Italian association, Assoprevidenza, and a paritarian insurance company from Belgium, Integrale. In CTIP in fact in the 90s I was acting as an advisor to European institutions; my job was to promote provident societies in front of the European Commission. Provident societies were excluded from the EU insurance directives of 1973 and 1975; the reason given was that future liabilities were not guaranteed by technical provisions, like it was for insurance companies.
When the question of expanding the insurance directive was discussed at the European level, the Commission launched a debate about whether to include some other operators in the scope of the forthcoming Directives. The French federation of insurers was totally against the entrance of provident societies and their representatives, and wanted provident societies to continue being excluded from the scope of the insurance directives. My job was to convince the French government and the European Commission to include these players, because after the enactment of the French “Evin” law in 1989, there was the same obligation for all providers of insurance contracts to have technical provisions to cover the entire duration of the contract.
Because of that, my position was more credible. I told the Commission and the French government that it was no longer possible to exclude provident societies and mutual societies from the insurance directive. The key moment came in 1992, after a night of debate in the European Parliament. I was supporting one member of the European Parliament, Marie-Claude Vayssade MEP, who was trying to pass an amendment to the new insurance directive in order to include new operators such as provident societies and mutual societies. In the end, the Commission received my petition positively and included it in the final Directive.
This all occurred without any support from the French federation of insurance companies. A few days later, we were in a meeting with Denis Kessler, the chair of the French federation of insurance companies. When we told him we were covered by the insurance directive he went ballistic. The days after, a complaint was launched by the French federation of insurers against mutual societies and provident societies in order to have the same taxation rules in France for all operators.
That was the beginning of my lobbying career. After that, the Chair of CTIP entrusted me with a second mission, the transposition of the new directives into French law. And right after that he gave to me a third mission, to identify the paritarian cousins of the provident societies across Europe as potential allies. I said to my chairman, Mr. Azais from ANIA at that time, “But if you have no idea about that, how is it possible for me to have some ideas about paritarian institutions across Europe?” And he said “We are sending you because you demonstrated some talent at lobbying and no doubt you will find a solution.”
So I started trying to identify other paritarian institutions in Europe. My first discovery was the BKKDV in Germany; we organized a meeting of the two bodies and in 1993 there was an agreement between the Board of CTIP and BKKDV to develop common ideas and common products across the Rhine, to cooperate rather than to compete. Then the representative of Assoprevidenza in Italy asked to see the agreement, and their Board signed on as well.
Later, the French insurance magazine Argus de l’Assurance arranged an interview with the chair of the CTIP’s working group on European issues and myself about the possibility of cooperation across Europe, organized by CTIP.
The surprise one week later was a letter from Integrale, a Belgian paritarian insurance company, asking for a meeting. They fully agreed to the protocol that had already been signed between CTIP, the Germans, and the Italians and asked to join the group. As a result, and without the agreement of CTIP at the beginning, there was a decision by the other three entities to create the European Association with a Secretary General, namely a certain Bruno Gabellieri.
In fact, the managing director of CTIP said to me, “Bruno, you cannot accept to put in place a new association with you in the position of Secretary General without the go-ahead of your managing director and of your board of directors; and we don’t accept your new position right now, at least officially.” I was obliged to explain all of that to the other three. Four hours later, back in my office in Paris, there was a little note on my desk from my managing director that read, “I agree with your new position now.” It turns out he had been contacted in the meantime by phone by the three others signatories and relented.
That is the true story of the foundation of AEIP. The official kickoff was at the first general meeting in Italy in Turin in September 1986 and the ceremonial kickoff organized with the help of the European Commission in Brussels was in April 1997. All the officials from the Commission were there: Padraig Flynn, Commissioner of employment and social affairs; Mario Monti, Commissioner in charge of competition and internal market; all the ambassadors to the European Union of the founding members, that is, from France Germany, Italy, and Belgium; and 200 or 300 officials from Italy, Germany, and Belgium. It was a very impressive meeting because at this time we were under the presidency of Jacques Delors, who had launched the social dialogue process at Val Duchesse, and that was in the line of this event. There was a high degree of alignment between what we had just done and his project, which was aimed at improving the dialogue between employers and employee representatives at the European level.
Delors’ social dialogue process was very popular in the beginning but then it petered out and there was little if any work done in the social protection area. The European Commission helped us at the time because they thought AEIP could be the place where the dialogue could restart, but we were not able to restart the social dialogue between the social partners at this European level. In fact, under the internal rules of AEIP the only members are members of the paritarian bodies organized at the national level. We have no members from the European level; we only have members from those countries that are members of the European economic area and Swiss members. Nevertheless, I was very much supported by the European Commission. For example, after the kickoff I was nominated as an expert in the coordinating group of the social security and social protection schemes for simplifying the 1408/71 Regulation; I was immediately nominated into the working party of the renovation of solvency rules in the insurance sector; and I was invited by the Commissioner of social protection in order to find solutions to regulate the approaches towards social security and private insurance schemes so as to avoid difficulties for people covered by both, as is often the case.
Right from the beginning, even before the enlargement of the European Union to Eastern countries, we opened the door to them. When we started to work on AEIP, it was very difficult to imagine AEIP’s position being what it is today. Step by step, we were included in many testimonies, in working parties, into the pension forums of the European Commission and the European Parliament. And the step by step approach was one of the keys of the enlargement of AEIP, because after some years AGIRC and ARRCO from France decided to join the club of the four founding members; the Dutch Federation of pensions schemes joined immediately after; the Finnish alliance of pension funds joined; paritarian institutions from Ireland, the U.K., Italy, Switzerland, and Austria were on the same line; and finally today we have 37 members across 19 countries of Europe.
GBV: Is AEIP purely a lobbying organization or do you envision changing that in the future and broadening its mission?
BG: On this issue, I am not totally in line with the views of all the board of directors. What is true in the European Union with 28 European countries holds true for us, with our 37 members representing 19 countries and 8 countries represented in the board of directors: we do have plenty of points of view.
For my part, right from the beginning I was sure that one day it would be possible to have agreements between employers and employee representatives at the pan-European level— for example in multinational companies or in some professional sectors with high mobility, such as the construction sector. This idea is not widely recognized as a real possibility today because when it is actually put in place, as in some multinational companies, it remains confidential because they are doing it only for top managers and directors. So spreading the word cannot be done in a public way; it is kept confidential.. But almost every big company already is doing it. This is the first point.
The second point is the possibility of negotiating an agreement at a professional sector level when a Europe-wide plan is actually implemented by most employers in the sector. One typical example is the construction sector: the migration of workers from Eastern Europe to the West makes it very difficult to manage social welfare schemes. One job for AEIP was to make sure in the case of the Bolkestein directive that there was no big dumping across borders deriving from the obligation to participate in the social schemes like pensions and health contributions, or paying different costs in various Countries: both situations that would arise a distortion of competition. The extent of coverage and the corresponding premiums rates are much lower in the East than in the West of Europe, when they exist at all.
For the moment no professional sector has taken any position to start social negotiations at the European level in the social protection arena. But I’m sure it will happen one day— and one duty of AEIP is to be the place where that is possible. For example, we have decided inside AEIP to create a transversal task force at the European level for the construction sector. At the beginning it was only a meeting of the paritarian institutions of each country, limited to the professional construction sector, with for example ProBTP from France, SokaBau in Germany, Cordares in the Netherlands, B&CE in the UK, CWPS in Ireland, CNCE in Italy, BUAK in Austria, and so on. But to my surprise, after a few meetings, we received an official request from two social partners at the European level of this sector, employers and employees together, asking to take part.
I was at this time a little embarrassed because my members are national members, not European members. If you look at the members of the Board of Directors coming from France, for example, we have the chair of the CTIP, the chair of ARRCO, the chair of AGIRC and so on; of course they are also members through their organizations: Business Europe, ETUC and other European social partners , but the latter have no connection with us. Because of this setup, where AEIP mandates are granted by its members who belong to the national level, I was obliged at this time to ask the authorization of my Board of Directors to accept European organizations inside the task forces of AEIP.
At the first internal debate they were very strongly against it; the employers’ representative from France said we could not do that. But then they checked with the appropriate authorities and accepted this option, opening the doors to representatives of the European social partners . It remains a little difficult for these people and organizations, who sometimes feel like they are caught in the middle: they are representatives at the national level with no mandate at the European level, but they still send people with a European mandate to AEIP working groups, where they work alongside regular members of AEIP. In any event, as a result, at the moment there is a lively dialogue going on for the construction sector, for the metal sector, for the health sector. We have the social partners at the European level talking to each other inside the AEIP, but at the same time the governance of AEIP has not been changed.
One of my visions for the future is that, if and when there is a general agreement in the social protection area at the European level, then I can say that AEIP has accomplished its mission. You see the point: right now, AEIP is promoting agreements at the European level. AEIP Director Francesco Briganti shows in his recent PhD how to create an European social scheme based on such an agreement concluded at the European level. If it works out, the mission of AEIP will be over, because the future lies in pan-European industry agreements, in pan-European social partners and institutions, in deciding through negotiations at the European level. AEIP will disappear at the same time as all national organizations will be in favor of pan- European activities, pan-European bodies, and an association of pan-Europeanplayers, as opposed to national players.
Perhaps then I and my staff will get new jobs in the new institutions created after the great convergence.
Going further, we can imagine the same kind of evolution at the global level. Of course, it remains purely a dream today, but when we talk with the Americans, the Canadians, the Japanese, the Australians, we can see the same problems in every country. And now with the discussions about global pensions, about international accounting standards, about solvency rules and so on, they all have the same issues. When you talk to the Mexicans, the Brazilians, the Indians, the need for harmonization is very clear. But for the moment you can imagine the reaction: It’s difficult.
GBV: What you are describing in terms of convergence is mainly of a bottom-up nature, isn’t it?
BG: Yes, today it is often about initiatives started by the nations that get together to that end. However, at the same time we have seen the emergence of top-down initiatives and we are working in a tangible way on this.
For example, right now in the construction sector we are working on an individual social identity card for each construction worker across Europe, a smart card, that will include all the professional time spent, wherever it may have occurred. When you work in the building industry, the safety rules are mostly the same whether you are in The Netherlands, or Germany, or Belgium. If you went through a safety training program in one country, it should be valid everywhere across Europe. The purpose is to encourage the free movement of workers without jeopardizing their safety. It also has positive effects on productivity and business continuity: accident costs go beyond worker’s comp and health and disability expenses; work is interrupted, tools may be damaged, the building itself may suffer, and the morale of the other workers sags.
I can give you another example. We are contributing to a project launched initially by the European Commission on pensions. The idea of the TTYPE project is to offer all citizens across Europe the possibility to click on a webpage and see all their coverage and all their future and vested rights under pillars one and two, and one day pillar three as well, that is, old age and retirement benefits, and their retirement age. This project is very important; it’s supported by AEIP with all the private actors, and it is ambitious, pushing the envelope in many countries. National governments have yet to embrace the project and transpose it at the national level, but they are indirectly involved in the task force through PGGM and MN for the Netherlands, SokaBau in Germany, PKA in Denmark and so on. In this way we can realize our goal to provide the best advantages for employees, for employers, and for institutions.
GBV: What about the creation of pan-European plans, in pensions and in risk benefits? Do you see that happening as a result of a top-down initiative or as a result of a local initiative spreading across Europe?
BG: The beginning of the project in the pensions arena – pan-European pension activities — was launched by Sir Leon Brittan in 1989; the outcome was the IORP I Directive of 2003, 14 years later. Now we are looking at the second step of IORP Directive, IORP II. For better or worse, the new project is basically empty. I say this because in the IORP I directive, there are 12 or 13 exceptions intended to take into account existing member country laws, chiefly labor and social laws and regulations. It turned out that all the countries used these provisions– in fact, loopholes resulting from a lack of will to enact strong, binding regulations and now these loopholes act as a barrier against any pan-European project. There are only 82 cross-border activities of pension funds, registered mainly in Ireland, the U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. And not one of the 82 really has an action at the European level.
They are authorized to act at the European level but in actual fact they do not. When they tried to operate in France, for example, the French government said social matters are national matters, and therefore a foreign entity cannot operate here. This is in fact pure protectionism. They don’t want to promote European projects.
Today, looking at the final proposal for IORP II, we see nothing in the way of a Pan-European vision. As a result, EIOPA decided to concentrate on only one new concept: the Personal Pan-European Pension Product (PEPP), which is made possible by the principle of free access to goods and services for all EU citizens. It is a watered-down version of a true pan-European pension activity , lacking the “group” or collective characteristic required for corporate plans. The legal sustainability of the personal pan-European pension product is based on the rules pertaining to cross-border sales, which are reluctantly acknowledged by the member states, and even then only on a personal basis, as opposed to a corporate basis.
I’m not against this project. Actually, in my point of view, we are considering the possibility of joining in by adding a collective approach with collective agreements. If there is free choice for people individually, then why is it not possible to create, on a voluntary basis, something like associations or conglomerates in order to reduce the costs, the price, and the management burden? It is well known that a collective approach reduces costs, is it not?
GBV: How does that fit with the RESAVER initiative put forth by the European Commission?
BG: The RESAVER initiative is indeed the only serious Pan-European project at this time. It is led by AON Hewitt and the European Commission and is intended for researchers and university employees. It is not yet completed, as far as I know. I believe that the EIOPA project regarding personal pan-European pension products is more ambitious, but I am waiting for the reactions of the member states and the Commission. I hope we can go further and find solutions, because one of the risks for future pensions is to have young people avoiding the national systems or the traditional systems, and trying to survive by themselves. That would be a kind of Wild West, a new jungle driven by private providers, mainly brokers, and some insurers with very short-term horizons and little sense of long-term responsibilities.
GBV: Are there any other initiatives ahead?
BG: We have covered our current initiatives comprehensively—but when you are like me and enthusiastic about this, it will never be completed. There will always be something to work on, to improve. So it is a very good thing that my retirement is still a long way off!
GBV: Can you describe the lobbying activities and how that is done in Brussels? What does a typical day of yours look like?
BG: When I’m in Brussels I’m normally visiting some key players in the European Commission, often in Directorate Generals, such as internal market or social affairs, to exchange points of view about projects on the table. These days we often address the IORP directive or the application of Solvency II in respect to pensions. Right now, no new solutions have been found in order to perform the balance sheet computation of pension funds. Solvency II does not seem to be the right approach either for pension funds. We explain to the experts of the Commission what we are seeing and thinking and doing, and we discuss how we could function better together.
In Brussels I also visit members of the European Parliament and their assistants to share information, essentially the same as with the Commission, to propose amendments and discuss position papers. We do that between their interactions with the Commission and their votes in the European Parliament.
We also organize meetings of the members of AEIP in Brussels every two months, with agendas that cover every substantial matter in depth, and include the opportunity to hear all the people in charge. We receive representatives from the Commission, the Parliament and especially its ECOFIN committee, and so on.
Then we exchange points of view in a very frank, open, and hopefully constructive way, always on a confidential basis, of course.
For the Bolkestein directive, for example, we were the first to host the people in charge of drafting the directive. When we discovered that there had been no impact study, we asked the Commission why not, and they replied they had no time to do it. We were very surprised. As a result, we did an impact study ourselves, which turned out to be opposed to the Bolkestein directive. After that, the German government took the matter in hand and asked the Commission and the COREPER to review the proposal. As a result of this stronger position, the draft Directive was heavily modified by the European institutions , and then the amended Bolkestein Directive was accepted by EU member countries. That is how a final, better version of the Bolkestein directive came about. The starting point was a meeting inside AEIP offices.
This is a typical day for me or Francesco Briganti, the Director of AEIP, in Brussels. We also talk to the other lobbies, of course. When we’re talking about pensions, we are also talking to Pensions Europe and to aim in order to develop common positions and initiatives whenever possible. It’s not always the case but we try to do that.
GBV: Do you often go on the road to meet with your members or do they come to you in Brussels?
BG: Just yesterday I was in Stockholm. The job of Secretary General of the AEIP and of the director of AEIP includes visiting the members in order to check if we are aligned, and to talk to members or groups of members to help them in their discussions about new local laws or pensions.
Very often we are called in as experts by member country governments, by parliaments, by government departments, so we have technical exchanges with them on these matters.
One of the surprises in my life as secretary general of AEIP was an application for membership from some governments. I received an official application for membership from the state of Slovakia, for example. You can imagine my surprise! Of course it was impossible, but it’s a good signal that we are doing something useful.
Very often, we are invited to take part in discussions around pensions. The Latvian government asked to be a part of our meeting but I was obliged to decline, as our meetings are members-only. Sometimes national political parties ask to attend a working group. But most often, we are invited to present the position of AEIP before specialized commissions of national parliaments across Europe or in front of supervisors, and from time to time in front of employer’s organizations or unions.
When Finland was about to join the European Union, there was a critical question. Its pensions are pre-funded at the level of 30%, and there was a risk that Finland would be obligated by applicable pension funds regulations to fully fund the liabilities arising from the first pillar. Finland wanted to discuss whether we thought it possible to have a special exemption when it joined the European Union. In the end, it did get the exemption based on precedent and on some technical arguments. It is typical to be asked for help by the authorities; we do the same for unions and for corporations. AEIP is not only an advocacy organization; it is also an organization that provides expertise to its members and beyond. Some lobbying organizations are purely about spreading ideas and positions, but we have tried to go beyond that, to provide positive and constructive input in order to be heard in a sustainable, long-term fashion. That is where our expertise comes in.
GBV: Most of your work is targeted toward the European Union and related institutions. Are there any other targets or partners?
BG: Actually, yes, we do work with some international organizations. For example, OECD is doing a lot on pensions. The people in charge of pensions at OECD such as Monika Queisser or Pablo Antolin, re world-class experts who are incredibly useful for us to integrate global considerations into our thinking.
We do the same with the ILO in Geneva and with EIOPA. In the beginning we were not members of their working groups, because as a lobby for the European institutions we are not organized to work outside of Brussels. But it is important for these institutions to share their points of view with international lobbies, not only national ones, so we took their invitation as a great opportunity for learning and influencing.
Looking at lobbying organizations around the world, in Washington DC, Brussels, Paris, Geneva, you see lobbyists being organized on a national basis. If you look at the number of lobbyists just in Brussels it is 15,000 people! Thousands of them work for American interests, and 25% work for U.K. interests.
That’s a big problem as far as I’m concerned. How many lobbyists are looking at issues in a transnational, global, or at least pan-European way? Actually, very, very few; the vast majority only defend their own self-interests, which may or may not be aligned with those of Europe. To me, this is one of the major problems of the lobbying world in Brussels. As far as AEIP is concerned, we need to develop more lobbying activities in front of international organizations, promoting European interests rather than national ones.
GBV: Can you describe some of the other activities of AEIP?
BG: We have to make our point in front of the general public and one of the tools to this end is the colloquia, the conferences, and the working parties open to external participants. Over the years, we have organized more than 70 international conferences—and we do that with no budget. From the beginning all the conferences were supported by sponsors. Thanks to this no-cost basis there is no impact on the normal AEIP budget, which is funded only through the contributions of the members. We get no recurring financial support from the European Commission or from the industry or from any outside sponsor, so there is no question about our being independent.
If we want to be visible on the European scene we need to push our views forward through colloquiums, conferences, and events. The last one was around the question of solvency rules and of the holistic balance sheet for pensions; we organized it in Geneva, in order to have the example of Switzerland, and even EIOPA participated in the meeting because there was a global interest in the topic and all the players were present.
The vast majority of our publications, studies, and papers are for members only. From time to time we have published some studies publicly but normally they are made at the request of a member or some other partner, such as an employer organization or a trade union, and they are for internal use only. As examples of publicly available works, we have published with Prof. Stevens of Leuven University on some aspects of the scope of social and labor law in respect of the IORP directive; another one was about portability of rights in retirement with Professor Jorens from Ghent University. For the PhD thesis of Francesco Briganti, we hope for an official publication as soon as possible. We also have done studies from a sectoral point of view, for example, on supplementary rights or about workplace health and safety to help inform the authorities. But as a general rule we do not publish on a broad basis.
GBV: What can you share about your plans for the next several years?
BG: We have a lot of projects in the works and our plans are in fact in line with the mandate of the chairman. We have a new chair for two years, Renato Guerriero representing BIL Pension Fund in Luxembourg; In his daily work, Renato Guerriero works for Candriam, formerly known as Dexia Life & Pensions, which is an asset management firm and a European subsidiary of a very well-known mutual insurance carrier in the United States, New York Life insurance company. Renato is an Italian married to a Belgian lady, fluent in many languages.
Our first project is to be part of the construction of the health and pension environment of tomorrow, not only at the European level but at the global level. As I said previously, my idea is to promote the paritarian model at the global level. Few people know that paritarian mechanics are in fact the most frequent denominator in social protection across the world. If you look at South America, North America, South Africa, Asia, and Europe, there is some commonality in the themes being discussed between employers and employees concerning pensions, health plans, unemployment, and safety at work. One of the future challenges for us at AEIP is to reveal to the world that paritarian organizations clearly add value. Few people know what the value really is and how it is possible to share this common value at the global level. Once we have promoted this value, we will help implement concrete agreements, concrete products, and— why not? —concrete institutions. In short, the plan for the coming years, apart from continuing the European work, is to speak to an audience wider than Europe and to extend the service to our members. They today are experiencing worldwide expansion of their own members, that is, employers; obviously all companies, even the smaller ones, have an international presence and activities and challenges. Then, I have no doubt we need to prepare for the future, with the Internet revolution and new technologies. I’m sure we have to follow this trend.
GBV: Do you have the necessary level of resources to do that?
BG: You’re perfectly right, no, we do not. We need to make better use of what forces we have by exchanging resources among all the actors at a worldwide level. It’s very difficult because all the national organizations already have their hands full, and the international organizations’ bandwidth is limited as well. We have to convince our members to open the doors, but the tendency today is mostly to close them.
GBV: Outside of Europe, the United States would certainly be an important target. Can you comment on your relationship with the United States?
BG: The starting point of our relationship in the United States was a request coming in from the NCCMP, a federal association of multi-employer pension plans and health benefits based in Washington DC, to cooperate with us. I was very, very surprised. I actually wondered at first if it was a friendly move or an aggressive action. My immediate reaction was to check their website, where I discovered that the actions of the two organizations, NCCMP and AEIP, the composition and the achievements and even the organizational structure were very similar. Even the contributions from members were exactly the same amount, even though NCCMP was older than AEIP, and it even had the same number of staff: no more, no less!
So we responded positively to their invitation. They hosted the first meeting as part of their general meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. I received an invitation, which I duly passed on to my boss. You can imagine his reaction; he said the board did not authorize me to go to Las Vegas. I was surprised because I was fully packed and ready to go; we had potentially a lot to do together. As it happened, I got the support of the Finnish member of AEIP, who eventually went himself—on the budget of the Finnish organization. What he learned about the U.S. lobbying organization was so interesting that upon his return he said we have to enter into an agreement. Next we had to convince the board of AEIP to accept an agreement that included the exchange of points of view, best practices, position papers, reciprocal invitations to each other’s conferences and one bilateral conference a year.
We started with that, and seven years later it has been going very well. Our cooperation has expanded to include promoting a global pensions alliance with the United States, Canada, Pensions Europe, ABC from the United States, ASFA from Australia. We are busy enlarging the global pensions alliance to prepare common position papers on questions of international mobility and solvency regulations standards, customer protection, and of course, the application of the Transatlantic Treaty on services.
GBV: Are the Japanese part of the global pension alliance?
BG: No, the Japanese are not in that alliance at the moment, but we are in contact with them, discussing what is possible to do together.
Case in point, we had decided to make a joint declaration on healthcare and disability, with the Japanese but without the Americans for the moment. We always start with whoever is ready, and further down the line we see how to include everyone. For the moment the Japanese are more interested in long-term care.
GBV: Do you have direct contacts with the U.S. government?
BG: No, we are not in direct contact. We once were invited to the White House at the request of the NCCMP, but that was more ceremonial than anything else. When we organized the first transatlantic meeting with NCCMP, there was a special request from the Americans because one of the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Mrs. Borzi, wanted to receive an official invitation from France ahead of the forthcoming visit of President Sarkozy, a purely French-American bilateral matter. I told them I would try to establish some contact with the French government but there was no guarantee, as it was clearly outside the role of AEIP. Finally, the representative from the DOL did meet close aides of President Sarkozy in the Elysees palace when she visited Paris. She did not meet the president himself but she spoke to one of his main advisors. Actually she shot pictures from the Elysees courtyard with her mobile phone in order to keep memories of that special moment and then sent a picture she had taken to President Obama— and he replied! It was one of those small things that certainly made it easier for us later in the process. In 2014 we organized a meeting between U.S. government representatives and EIOPA in Frankfurt, Germany, and today we know that there are many discussions at the global level between insurance supervisors. Normally this is not part of our job but we are happy to provide that kind of service if we can. It often is a good start for further, deeper discussions with the U.S. government.
GBV: Thank you Mr Gabellieri, for this lively and very comprehensive account of AEIP’s missions and history.