LONDON (Reuters) – Leaving critical insurance capital rule changes to ‘conservative’ regulators may not free up the billions of euros needed for the European Union economy to recover from COVID-19 and meet climate goals, a senior EU lawmaker said on Thursday.
The EU has proposed a package of changes to the bloc’s six-year old Solvency II rules, which determine how much capital insurers like AXA, Generali (MI:GASI) and Allianz (DE:ALVG) must hold, to make it easier to invest in long-term projects.
The proposals need approval from the European Parliament and member states to come into effect, with compromises inevitable.
Markus Ferber, the German centre right lawmaker who is steering the reform through parliament, said the bloc’s executive European Commission, which drafted the reforms, has said some changes should be left to the bloc’s insurance regulator EIOPA.
“This is not an acceptable approach,” Ferber told an event held by Insurance Europe.
Little tweaks in numbers can free up billions of euros or tie up billions of euros, he said.
“Finding the right trade-off on those numbers is a political decision. EIOPA will ultimately always go for a very conservative and very cautious calibration,” Ferber said, adding he will push for legislators to have a bigger role in making the trade-offs.
With London becoming a major competitor to EU finance since Brexit, the bloc wants to be more nimble in regulation by avoiding putting technical details in primary legislation, which is cumbersome to amend.
John Berrigan, who heads the Commission’s financial services unit, said Solvency II was primarily about keeping insurers safe and the reform package has the right balance between this and helping to increase the flow of investments.
The package is an evolution rather than revolution and the Commission will maintain its balance between primary legislation and rulemaking by regulators, Berrigan said.
The Commission is asking EIOPA to assess whether insurers could hold less capital to cover risks from “green” projects compared with polluting “brown” projects, Berrigan said.
“The objective will never to be to give a free pass to risky but green projects,” Berrigan said.
Britain is also overhauling the Solvency II regime it inherited from the bloc, but has yet to set out what specific changes it has in mind.