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Geoffrey Smith. The Wall Street Journal

Page C3. On November 13 the European Union (EU) approved new rules for the world’s largest insurance market. After more than a decade of debates over the rules, generally referred to as Solvency II, the insurance industry won a partial victory in the amount of capital that insurers will be required to hold to cover potential losses and in provisions that will make it easier for European insurers to enter rapidly growing emerging markets and to set up operations in North America. Munich Re, the large German reinsurer, said the compromise the industry reached with regulators appropriately balances the needs of consumers, businesses and the EU’s insurers. Some criticized the final form of the rules for conceding to the demands of individual governments and for relaxing the broader and more closely coordinated authority that had been proposed for the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority. Sven Giegold, who coordinated the work of Green parties in the European Parliament on Solvency II, said that the insurance industry benefited from years of intensive lobbying efforts and characterized the new rules as a bag of rewards for each national industry. Giegold said that insurers were relieved of the requirement to hold nearly 280 billion pounds ($377.6 billion) in extra capital to cover future losses and were granted excessive discretion over the distribution of profits. David Simmons, managing director of analytics at reinsurance broker Willis Re, said that Solvency II, which takes effect at the beginning of 2016, will greatly challenge many small insurers, particularly mutual insurers, which may be penalized for their lack of diversification and for their limited capacity to raise more capital.

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