Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Solvency II, Omnibus II and Trilogue - two steps forward, two steps back?

Headline results from an Economist Intelligence Unit survey have been published this week, apparently suggesting that most global insurers continue to see Solvency II as their biggest regulatory challenge. Despite its prominence in the agendas of insurers' committees, boards and control functions, the legislation appeared to have taken a back seat in the decision-making fora of the European Union since the publication of EIOPA's LTGA in June.

So while the EU Parliamentarians go off for their hard earned 5 weeks in the sun (and by association Omnibus II/Solvency II will temporarily sit untouched like a pair of pink booties in Buckingham Palace), we can try and work out what the crack is with the dossier!

So with the Trilogue process itself necessarily one of closed doors, secret handshakes and unpublished shady deals, at least we formally know that they reconvened before the summer holidays thanks to Sharon Bowles' diary handler! Other than InsuranceERM's piece on a "muted start" to the negotiations (subscription only), the well is pretty dry on comment, suggesting that they got off to an inauspicious (re)start.

As far as the latest ITER listings go (p1), ECON will not be considering the dossier again until 18th November 2013. From what I can read of the Parliamentary calendar, that is too close to supply the November Plenary with anything to vote on, and the December one is scheduled early in the month. Fair to say that, as indicated by Burkhard Balz last month, the Parliament won't vote on Omnibus II before 2014?

Bed made - but covers stolen...
So the Lithuanian presidency is in town, and apparently sees the Omnibus II dossier as having "high importance" (p3) within their recently published work programme. ECOFIN have a state of play meeting provisionally scheduled for 15th October 2013.

That said, when pressed for comment when attending ECON before the summer holidays, they seems to have learned from the Paula Abdul school of making progress: for the two steps forward indicated by the Lithuanian Finance Minister's comment that the Presidency is committed to resolving, amongst other dossiers, Omnibus II (p12), he immediately takes two steps back by noting one of the key tactics will be "...focusing on uncontroversial technical issues to facilitate progress" (p13) - might be OK for some of the multitude of delayed dossiers, but not this one!

EIOPA naturally consider their work largely done for Omnibus II, and consider the report a "reliable basis" for making decisions on LTGs, and ultimately Omnibus II itself. Sr. Bernadino did however admit at the ABI conference a week back that, for 2016 to remain a viable "Go Live" date, political agreement on Omnibus II would be needed by the end of this year. Judging by Parliament's position above, I guess 2016 is out then!

European Commission
While Commissioner Barnier had lavished praise on EIOPA's, errr, "very good [LTGA] report", the Commission has lost its Solvency II specialist to retirement during this year, which might lead some observers to believe the Commission will be less effective as a negotiator while the new boy learns the ropes. However, Gideon managed to get some words from Karel van Hulle's replacement a couple of weeks back, and his modus operandi doesn't sound like one which will lead to a swift decision at the expense of one or two angry outliers in any case.

Specifically his comment that "We need to find a solution that works for almost all Member States. That is our ambition. So we don’t like to get the project through, just about ", suggests that anyone at the table with a gripe will get some airtime. With the LTGA outcome causing more gripe than at a constipated nursery, I suspect that the delays caused by the current 5 week vacance soleil will be a mere drop in the ocean...

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