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BRUSSELS, Belgium-The European Commission has warned Spain and France that it will take them to the European Court of Justice unless they comply fully with E.U. insurance directives.
The European Union alleges that in contravention of its directives and recommendations, Spanish authorities are imposing too many checks on insurance brokers from other E.U. countries wanting to operate there. It says Spain, contrary to the Directive on Insurance Agents and Brokers, has introduced a full vetting procedure rather than merely checking the authenticity of documents furnished as proof of the applicant's standing and good reputation.
Also, contrary to the E.U. Treaty of Rome, Spain imposes a prior-authorization requirement both for those wanting to set up as agents or brokers as well as for those wishing to provide services temporarily.
The European Commission says France is breaching its third non-life insurance directive and its third life assurance directive, both of which took effect in July 1994. Contrary to the directives, France still requires insurers to complete a filing before they can offer new insurance products in the French market.
The European Commission issued the warnings by sending to the governments of Spain and France "reasoned opinions"-the second stage in infringement proceedings under the Treaty of Rome.
The Commission warned that "if it does not receive a satisfactory reply from the Member States concerned within two months of their receiving the reasoned opinions, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice."
The action against Spain has been welcomed by BIPAR, the Brussels, Belgium-based international federation of insurance intermediaries. BIPAR issued a statement pointing out it has been denouncing Spanish law on insurance intermediaries for more than five years because it "puts serious obstacles in the path of insurance intermediaries wishing to provide their services across the Spanish border."
BIPAR alleged that "the financial and administrative burdens imposed on non-Spanish intermediaries who wish to be active in the Spanish market effectively exclude them from this market."
It added that Spanish policy "clearly discriminates against non-Spanish insurance brokers" and that the requirement for them to submit a program of their activities delays their ability to operate in Spain by several months.
Separately, the European Commission said it is planning essential "corrections" to the current solvency requirements for insurers.
The E.C. plan on solvency margins follows an internal report that concluded that solvency requirements have worked well on the whole but that certain risks "seem at present to be covered in an inadequate or unsuitable manner."
These risks include long-term and investment risks in non-life insurance, reinsurance risks and risks connected with rapid variations in operating conditions. The commission said to reduce these risks it would have to make "corrections" to solvency requirements, though it did not say what these measures would be.
It also plans to update the minimum guarantee fund, which sets an absolute floor for the solvency margins of insurers based on the volume of risks they underwrite. The fund has not been adjusted in nominal terms since rules creating it were set in the 1970s.