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Thank you for bringing us together today to discuss the ways in which the international community can further strengthen its response to fight terrorist financing.
I would like to start by thanking France for putting terrorism financing in the spotlight with the organisation of the Ministerial Conference ‘No Money for Terror’ in April last year; it has given a new political impetus to Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) policies. I would also like to thank Australia for organising the follow-up conference later this year; it is important to keep the political momentum and the EU is willing to contribute to it.
Terrorism Financing is a dynamic and continuously evolving phenomenon. The existing CFT framework has been effective in limiting the capacity of terrorist organisations to finance their activities. For the EU, two elements are of crucial importance. First, to improve transparency of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts, as criminals are known to exploit opaque structures as a means to hide their sources of funding or to circumvent sanctions regimes. Second, it is important to enhance inter-agency cooperation.
New challenges emerge constantly and terrorists change their modus operandi to be able to circumvent the existing controls. Terrorists use new financing streams, like through small foundations. They use new techniques, like crypto currencies. They use new sources, like organized crime. We therefore need to be vigilant and update our counter-measures where necessary. In this regard, the EU has strengthened the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, the criminalisation of terrorism financing, developed a new asset-freezing regime against Al-Qaeda and ISIL in 2016, and is in the process of adopting legislation to ensure law enforcement access to bank account information and stronger cooperation between law enforcement and Financial Intelligence Units.
The new provisions brought about by the Anti-Money Laundering Directive are of crucial importance, particularly when it comes to lifting of anonymity in transactions. This applies to virtual currencies, prepaid cards and to the full transparency of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts.
In the EU, terrorist attacks by small cells and small actors have been carried out with very small amounts of funding. These low-amount transactions may not be easy to detect by financial entities. Therefore, we need to bridge the intelligence gap and improve the use of financial information in counter-terrorism investigations, as stated by the G20 in July 2017. The legislative proposal to ensure cooperation between law enforcement and Financial Intelligence Units is key in this respect. Several countries have established Public/Private Partnerships in the area of financial intelligence, for example between public prosecutors, the police, Financial Intelligence Units and private companies. The EU is providing financial support to projects looking into the developments of such Public/Private Partnerships in the EU.
The external dimension is also important. Coordination and international cooperation are key to learn from each other and support capacity building. The EU is strengthening its support to third countries in implementing UN Security Council requirements, FATF recommendations and GCTF good practices, while identifying third countries presenting strategic deficiencies in their regime on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing.
We believe that combining our international efforts can help us all to move closer to preventing and countering the financing of terrorism.