Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas has given the thumbs-down to a proposal by the current Italian presidency of the European Union for a unified legal framework for member states’ pension systems. «The European Commission could not impose on the member states a single package of solutions for their pension systems. National differences are so strong and the issue so sensitive that it would be naive to back the possibility of harmonizing social insurance policies,» he said during yesterday’s informal meeting with EU counterparts in Milan. Reppas insisted on member states maintaining their options for the direction and content of pension systems. «It is necessary to safeguard the character of open coordination as a flexible procedure which includes neither recommendations to member states nor competitions for the best performance. Pension issues are quite complex and include a high degree of political sensitivity which makes them inappropriate for the adoption of binding guidelines from EU institutional bodies,» he said. The Italian government’s proposal is seen by many as an attempt to muster outside support for its pension reform plans that are facing strong reaction at home. Nevertheless, the social insurance issue remains an open one for Greece, despite last year’s reform that the government claimed to be a long-term solution. Presently, the issue is directly linked to aspects of labor costs and the banking market. According to sources, in a draft bill to be tabled in Parliament’s summer session, the Labor Ministry is seriously considering shifting workers in the canning industry from the (expensive) Social Security Foundation (IKA) to the (cheap) Agricultural Insurance Organization (OGA). A first indication was given by Deputy Social Security Minister Rovertos Spyropoulos yesterday. «We are studying improvements in the existing rules concerning changes between funds, auxiliary pensions, insurance for new types of work, OGA’s adaptation to accommodate farmer-businessmen and introducing retirement after 37 years of work for the self-employed,» he told a conference on pension issues. Spyropoulos said it was necessary to clarify the goals of the three basic pillars in the social insurance system – main, auxiliary and private.