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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Member States of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I would like to start by thanking the President of the General Assembly, Madame Espinosa, for organising this high level meeting on "International Cooperation to combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthen Good Practices on Asset Return" and by appreciating all the work that has gone into this effort over the past months.
Illicit financial flows damage the integrity, stability and reputation of the financial sector, undermine internal and international markets and facilitate the infiltration of organised criminal groups in the legal economy, threatening both our security and our prosperity. It is crucial that we all work together to improve transparency of beneficial ownership, avoiding criminals hiding behind opaque structures.
The European Union and its members are very committed to boost tax transparency within their territories as well as worldwide in order to preserve countries’ domestic resources and global political stability. We recognize the work of OECD and the "Global Forum on Tax Transparency" in combating tax evasion and Illicit Financial Flows worldwide.
The European Union promotes the adoption of global solutions to respond to these and other threats at international level. Recently, we adopted Directive 2018/843 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing. This Directive reinforces EU rules on transparency; accountability, fight against corruption and protection of whistle-blowers. The EU and its Member States have also taken action on mutual recognition of freezing orders and we of course contribute to international efforts.
Corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. Corruption undermines the institutions and values of democracy, ethics and justice, and jeopardizes sustainable development and the rule of law. Tackling illicit financial flows and corruption is key for the achievement of the Agenda 2030 and especially SDG 16, which aims to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime” (target 16.4) and, “substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms” (target 16.5).
Let me underline the role of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as the leading UN entity to support and advise Member States in combatting corruption. UNODC helps member States in implementing the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the almost universal legally binding instrument and framework for the international community to address the issue of corruption. The provisions in Chapter V of the UNCAC on asset recovery provide a solid legal basis in order to enable cooperation as it is stipulated in article 42 of the Convention which obliges state parties to extend the widest possible cooperation to each other in the investigation and prosecution of offences defined in the Convention.
Such cooperation is needed to strengthen the global financial system, which is only as strong as its weakest link. It is also needed to facilitate the tracing of illicit financial flows at global level and to strengthen the effectiveness of asset recovery. Global and regional networks of "asset recovery practitioners" play a key role in this respect. In this regard, we fully support the development of CARIN, "the network of operational law enforcement and judicial contact points" to increase the effectiveness of our common efforts, on a multi-agency basis, in depriving criminals of their illicit profits.
In concluding, we welcome the General Assembly’s recent decision in Resolution 73/191 to convene, in 2021, a Special Session on challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and illicit financial flows and to strengthen international cooperation; let me assure you that the EU and its Member States will actively participate in the preparations under the auspices of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption;
* North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.