MEPs want their say on rules covering accounting standards

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Series Details Vol.7, No.46, 13.12.01, p32
Publication Date 13/12/2001
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Date: 13/12/01

By Peter Chapman

MEPS are demanding the power to oversee the work of officials in charge of implementing international accounting standards across the EU.

German member Klaus Heiner Lehne has tabled amendments to a draft law that currently denies MEPs any say over how rules drawn up by the London-based International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) should be applied in the Union.

Lehne, the Christian Democrat power-broker who scuppered the Commission take-over directive, said MEPs should have a 'call-back' on decisions of the Commission-chaired committee which will decide how the norms should work in practice.

His call mirrors demands by fellow German MEP Karl Von Wogau for Parliamentary oversight on decisions taken by the new European securities committee, set up this year to bring in reforms under so-called 'comitology rules'.

Von Wogau's report on the introduction of securities reforms, launched by former Belgian banker Alexandre Lamfalussy, is due for adoption next Spring.

Lehne forecast that his proposals would have the support of "the vast majority" of Parliament. At the same time, he said there should be a delay of up to five years on the adoption of the new standards by firms listed on stock exchanges - time-tabled for 2005 at present.

"There are some people in industry asking for a prolongation. They say they would have to meet four different sets of standards at the same time - European ones, ones for tax purposes, US ones and IAS [International Accounting Standards]," said Lehne.

"I do not think 2010 will be the final result - but maybe a delay of one or two years," he added.

The Parliament's demand for oversight on the securities market system has already cast doubt over the end-of-2003 timetable set for the creation of a pan-European securities rule-book.

It has also increased concerns in the accountancy profession that the Union could derail the switch to international standards by seeking to change the way the norms are applied. The industry argues that international norms are vital to slash the costs of firms seeking capital in foreign markets.

By using the same accounting rules it will be cheaper for them to become listed on foreign stock exchanges and make it easier for investors to compare companies from different countries.

Those gains could be lost if the EU and other trade blocs - notably the United States, which is also considering a similar switch to IAS - insist on cherry picking which international standards to adopt, and how to apply them.

Michael Groom, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, said he wanted the EU to get involved in shaping the development of the new standards in liaison with the IASB, not to reject or amend them once they are agreed.

"The call-back option is not the right approach. The involvement must be at the start of the process and not at the end," added Groom, insisting the 2005 deadline for adoption of international standards "must be adhered to".

Jonathan Todd, spokesman for single market chief Frits Bolkestein, said: "There is an urgent need for this regulation to be adopted and to enter into force. The Commission sincerely hopes that it would be agreed as quickly as possible by Council and Parliament."

EU diplomats said finance ministers may reach their own deal on the accounting regulation at an Ecofin meeting today (13 December).

MEPs are demanding the power to oversee the work of officials in charge of implementing international accounting standards across the EU.

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