Answer given by Mr Šemeta on behalf of the Commission
1. Since the introduction of the euro, a coherent set of measures has been put in place for the protection of the single currency against counterfeiting. This comprises legislative initiatives, technical tools and institutional changes, with an emphasis on close cooperation between all actors involved at national and European level.
In particular, Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001(1) lays down the fundamental measures to be taken for the protection of the euro banknotes and coins; the framework decision of May 2000 sets the criminal sanctions against counterfeiting(2); and a number of technical legislative acts have been issued to better protect the euro banknotes and coins. These have been successful in creating the necessary structures for the effective protection of the euro at European and international level. The designation of Europol as the central office for coordinating national law enforcement in the protection of the euro, the coordination on technical aspects of euro banknotes by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the management of training actions by the Commission through the Pericles Programme have ensured the containment of euro counterfeiting at very low levels by historical and international standards.
The recent increase in the number of counterfeit banknotes removed from circulation, although significant, should be looked at in the context of the total number of banknotes in circulation. Indeed, the 860 000 counterfeit banknotes withdrawn during the whole of 2009, representing no more than about 3 000 a day in circulation at any one time, is a tiny fraction of the almost 13 billion genuine banknotes in circulation. The number of counterfeit coins also remains at extremely low levels.
A number of recent measures will further increase the protection of euro banknotes and coins. The new status of Europol as an EU agency(3) will increase the efficiency of law enforcement actions. New legislation(4) will oblige financial institutions to guarantee the authenticity of euro currency they distribute. The second generation of euro banknotes that the ECB will progressively put into circulation constitutes a big technological leap increasing the security of euro banknotes. Finally, the Pericles Programme will continue to focus on the priorities set by the Member States, the Commission, the ECB and Europol.
The Commission considers these as the best guarantees for the efficient protection of the euro inside and outside the EU.
2. According to Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 Article 3.1, technical and statistical data relating to counterfeit notes and coins discovered in the Member States shall be gathered and indexed by the competent national authorities. Whilst the European Central Bank stores and processes this data for the purpose of facilitating the fight against counterfeiting, neither it nor the Commission disseminates the data relating to specific Member States. Rather, this task is left as a matter for the competent national authority of that state. For a list of competent national authorities and their contact details see: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2009:056:0003:01:EN:HTML.
Council Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA of 29 May 2000 on increasing protection by criminal penalties and other sanctions against counterfeiting in connection with the introduction of the euro, OJ L 140, 14.6.2000.
Regulation (EC) No 44/2009 of 18 December 2008 amending Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting, OJ L 17, 22.1.2009; Regulation (EC) No 45/2009 of 18 December 2008 amending Regulation (EC) No 1339/2001 extending the effects of Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting to those Member States which have not adopted the euro as their single currency, OJ L 17, 22.1.2009; Regulation (EC) No 46/2009 of 18 December 2008 amending Regulation (EC) No 2182/2004 concerning medals and tokens similar to euro coins, OJ L 17, 22.1.2009; Regulation (EC) No 47/2009 of 18 December 2008 amending Regulation (EC) No 2183/2004 extending to the non-participating Member States the application of Regulation (EC) No 2182/2004 concerning medals and tokens similar to euro coins, OJ L 17, 22.1.2009.