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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
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 thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of France Jean-Yves Le Drian, United Nations Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, the President of the Financial Action Task Force Marshall Billingslea, and anti-money laundering expert Mercy Buku.
Combating the financing of terrorism remains of utmost concern for the EU and its Member States, and we welcome the opportunity to speak on this important topic today.
I would like to start by thanking France for putting terrorism financing in the spotlight with the organisation of the Arria Formula meeting last January and for introducing its Council resolution as a concrete follow-up to the Ministerial Conference ‘No Money for Terror’ held in April last year; it has given a new political impetus to Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) policies. It is important to keep this political momentum and the EU is ready to contribute to it.
This resolution is an opportunity to reaffirm the principles and obligations already established under the existing CFT framework which deal with terrorism and its financing and which have been effective in limiting the capacity of terrorist organisations to finance their activities.
It is also an opportunity to respond to the evolution of the threat. Terrorism financing is a dynamic and continuously evolving phenomenon.
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 crowd-funding platforms. They use new sources, like organized crime. We therefore need to be vigilant and update our counter-measures where necessary.
For the EU, it is important 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, and to enhance inter-agency cooperation. 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 in specific cases of serious crime or terrorism and stronger cooperation between law enforcement and Financial Intelligence Units.
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. In this respect, we support intensifying and accelerating the timely exchange of information and financial intelligence as reflected in the resolution. 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 partnerships in the EU and we are glad to see that the resolution also calls for the establishment of public-private partnerships in the financial sector.
While it is important to counter the financing of terrorism, we should ensure that any measures taken do not limit the space in which humanitarian actors can operate in a principled manner, in particular in high-risk and fragile contexts where their assistance is greatly needed. We therefore underline that the implementation of CFT measures should be in full compliance with international law, in particular human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law, and that mitigating measures, including where relevant humanitarian exemptions, should be introduced to reduce impact on humanitarian actors. Moreover, all States should ensure that activities by non-profit organizations, including those working on gender-related issues and women's rights, as well as on reconstruction and stabilisation, are not unduly restricted.
In closing, we would like to reiterate that coordination and international cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism between Member States and United Nations entities are key to learn from each other and to support targeted technical assistance and capacity building efforts. We believe that combining our international efforts can help us all to move closer to preventing and countering the financing of terrorism.
* North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.