The European Unions’s financial overseers have seemingly dodged serious questions from the European Parliament amid a brewing financial scandal in Romania.
Petra Hielkema, head of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), was met with but few unchallenging questions from the very small number of MEPs in a virtually empty room in Parliament.
This was despite a slew of parliamentary questions that have been tabled of the EIOPA about its apparent failure to deal with what some allege is anti-competitive behaviour by the Romanian Government.
“They have intentionally hidden this meeting,” one anonymous source told Brussels Signal.
The source maintained that the meeting was intentionally scheduled on a day when most MEPs are still travelling and would therefore attract minimal attendance.
It was the last opportunity before the next EU elections that the chief of EIOPA, along with the heads of the EU’s other financial oversight bodies, could sit before the Parliament’s economic committee.
Reports have emerged in Romania suggesting that insurance brokers there have been discreetly cautioned by the Romanian Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF) about potential inspections and licence revocations if they persist in selling Bulgarian insurance products across the border.
The European Commission has nothing to say about reports of anti-competitive behaviour by Romanian authorities. https://t.co/zefe56rx0E
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) October 20, 2023
Bulgarian insurance company Eurohold Bulgaria asserts that contravenes the EU’s fundamental principle of the freedom to provide services and has consequently filed a complaint with EIOPA.
The Parliamentary committee heard Hielkema talk about her desire to “improve cross-border supervision” and “foster competition”. She added that she would like to introduce more cross-border insurance policy selling within the EU.
When asked what she thought regarding Eurohold in Romania, she told Brussels Signal that, as chairwoman, she could not comment on specific cases, only “more generally on policy”. She said interested companies should raise such issues with their national supervisors first.
When asked what a business should do when a national supervisor was the problem – as Eurohold alleges is the case with Romania’s ASF – Hielkema admitted that was something EIOPA would have to look into but offered little further details.
When asked about Eurohold and others’ allegations, the European Commission offered a terse “no comment”, providing no indication of whether it was aware of the official complaint or whether it intended to investigate or take any action.
The freedom to provide services is one of the core principles of the EU, enshrined in Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It permits companies and individuals within the bloc to offer their services in any Member State, regardless of their home country.
The current situation has come against the backdrop of broader concerns about potential anti-competitive behaviour within the Romanian market. These include the recent licence revocation of Euroins, the Romanian branch of Eurohold Bulgaria.
Eurohold Bulgaria contends that move was the culmination of years of harassment by Romanian authorities and that nearly 2 million Romanian motorists are now at risk of being left without insurance.
MEPs have called for an independent investigation into the matter as the EC continues to face criticism over its handling of the situation.