• MEPs criticise member states giving in to diplomatic pressure to boycott blacklist of 23 countries with poor anti-money laundering rules 
  • Screening should be carried out solely on the basis of strict criteria, not political reasons 

MEPs expressed concern on Thursday that member states have scuppered the Commission’s plan to place new countries on the EU money-laundering blacklist.

The resolution was adopted by a show of hands with an overwhelming majority.

The adopted resolution comes one week after member states refused to include 23 countries on an updated blacklist. These countries were put forward by the Commission, as their anti-money laundering legislation was deficient.

Do not mix politics with fighting money laundering

The resolution praises the work done by the Commission to adopt a list drawn up using “strict criteria” which was accepted in the past by both the Council and the European Parliament.

It recognises that the countries on the list exerted diplomatic pressure and lobbying. However, such pressure should not undermine the EU institutions’ ability to fight money laundering and to counter terrorist financing linked to the EU, the resolution adds.

For this reason, MEPs consider that the screening and decision-making process should be carried out solely on the basis of the commonly agreed methodology.

Yellow card to Russia

The resolution also points a finger at Russia, which was not included in the Commission’s proposed list. It points out that various parliamentary committees raised concerns regarding weaknesses in Russia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks.

Next steps

The Commission will now need to present another list, identical or amended, and the European Parliament and the Council will have one month to approve or oppose it.

Background

The Commission proposed to place 23 countries on the blacklist of states at high risk of facilitating money laundering: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Yemen, all already on the EU’s list, while adding American Samoa, Bahamas, Botswana, Ghana, Guam, Libya, Nigeria, Panama, Puerto Rico, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, and the US Virgin Islands.

The inclusion of a country on the list of high-risk non-EU countries does not trigger economic or diplomatic sanctions, but, rather, requires ‘obliged entities’ such as banks, casinos and real estate agencies to apply enhanced due diligence measures on transactions involving these countries, and to make sure that the EU financial system is equipped to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing risks coming from these non-EU countries.

Member states claim that the process for updating the list was unclear and potentially vulnerable to legal challenges. There are concerns, however, that some EU countries came under severe lobbying, particularly from the US and Saudi Arabia.