Sven Giegold
Member of the European Parliament – Greens/EFA Group

Speaker of the German Green Delegation

Council position on combating money laundering: Step in the right direction but not ambitious enough

Today the Council of EU Economic and Finance Ministers presented its conclusions on the European Commission’s action plan on combating money laundering and terrorist financing. In these conclusions, the Council of Ministers welcomes the plans to transpose parts of European anti-money laundering legislation into a directly applicable regulation, thereby eliminating the current patchwork of unequal and often weak national implementation. Furthermore, the Council supports the creation of a common European anti-money laundering supervisory authority for financial sector firms which are considered particularly at risk because of their customer base, distribution channels or geographical profile. The existing national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) should cooperate more closely in the future.

On Monday, it was still unclear whether the Council of Ministers would adopt a common position because the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, which has been part of the government in Tallinn since 2019, threatened to prevent a compromise. In the meantime, however, the Estonian government gave up on its threat to block a joint conclusion .

The action plan was presented in May by the then Finance Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. It contained, among other things, proposals for a coordination and support mechanism for the national Financial Intelligence Units, European anti-money laundering supervision carried out by the EBA or a new EU authority, stricter rules against cyber-crime and a harmonised set of rules in the form of a directly applicable regulation. In July, the European Parliament already adopted a resolution on the Commission’s action plan. In the new year, the European Commission will present its legislative proposals which must then be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union by majority vote to become law.

 

MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group commented:

“Today’s Council conclusions on the fight against money laundering are a step in the right direction. The proposals for the planned anti-money laundering regulation and the plan to place financial institutions which present a particularly high risk of money laundering under common European supervision are particularly positive. After years of money laundering scandals, the Council is weakening its long-standing stance against far-reaching EU powers in the fight against money laundering. The European Commission and Council are thus following many of the green demands in the field of anti-money laundering, for which we have already found a broad majority in the European Parliament.

Unfortunately, the conclusions are far too unambitious on crucial points. The call for better coordination of the Financial Intelligence Units is a fig leaf that will not bring about any noticeable improvement in practice. In order to combat cross-border financial crime within the EU effectively, the EU needs an independent European Financial Intelligence Unit with direct powers, which can immediately take action in such cases.

It is disappointing that the Council of Ministers has not taken up the call for a European financial police. In its strong resolution from July, the European Parliament had called for Europol to be given the mandate to initiate cross-border investigations independently. Experience shows that without a dedicated investigating authority, the prosecution of financial crime often comes to nothing. A strong rule of law must ensure that criminals are not more mobile and flexible than their persecutors. This is not only a matter for the Finance Ministers, but also for the Ministers of the Interior as well as for the Justice Ministers of the Member States. The Commission should act interdepartmentally and present proposals for a European financial police.”

 

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Resolution of the European Parliament on the EU Commission action plan on preventing money laundering and terrorist financing:
https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/B-9-2020-0207_EN.pdf

 

Action plan of the EU Commission on preventing money laundering and terrorist financing:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/200507-anti-money-laundering-terrorism-financing-action-plan_en