Bermuda officials discuss policy issues with European Union

ETBobRichards-2Hamilton, Bermuda — Bermuda officials have been in talks with European Union authorities on policy matters of mutual interest.

And high on the list of priorities are impending EU laws that may disadvantage Bermuda’s insurers and reinsurers.

But if Bermuda’s quest for equivalence with Europe’s Solvency II Directive is successful, it would allow Bermuda insurers and reinsurers to retain access to EU markets when new harmonization rules come into effect in 2016.

Deputy premier and minister of finance Bob Richards last month completed a third visit to Brussels and returns there again in June to engage European representatives.

During the most recent trip, meetings were held with officials from all three EU institutions (the European Commission, the Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament), as well as with the UK permanent representation, and, representatives of the European insurance industry.

Richards said he felt positive about the meetings, but noted the discussions underscored the continuing work Bermuda must do to ensure it is seen as separate from jurisdictions being targeted as “tax havens”.

The minister said, “During some of these meetings, we felt it necessary to emphasize Bermuda’s contribution to the global and EU economies through our insurance and re-insurance sectors.

“Many of these policy makers know the history of Bermuda’s adherence to international best practices. But there will always be those who don’t. We have to continue telling our story.

“The international climate can be hostile. There are those blaming small countries for the problems facing their economies.

“We must make our case that Bermuda is unique and there is need for a differentiation in the treatment of smaller island jurisdictions.

“Bermuda has always been ahead of the curve on compliance in tax, financial regulation, transparency and international cooperation. Bermuda’s first TIEA (tax information exchange agreement) with the US dated from 1986. This was a landmark, a launching pad for re-insurance in Bermuda.”

The minister said, “Bermuda’s government, the legislature and the financial services regulator – the Bermuda Monetary Authority – have been doing their part to stand on common ground with Europe on Solvency II. And much work has been done by the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) in advancing the cause.

“At home, there are still further measures that we are putting in place. There are also outstanding matters that must be realized on the continent.

“We are in Brussels again in June, where we believe the ‘Bermuda story’ has largely been heard. But we cannot be complacent until we get to the finish line.

“It is clear that Solvency II equivalence for Bermuda is not just good for our companies. The Bermuda markets make an important contribution to the European and global economies. Over many years now, payments from Bermuda reinsurers have represented significant relief for public and private claimants in the wake of horrific disasters, including hurricanes and air disasters.

“The importance of these markets to Europe and the world is unquestioned. Our support for them is imperative.”

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