Parliament stands with the Commission in the fight against forgery and financial crimes

, by Translated by Anna Walthew, Yohan Peccavy

Parliament stands with the Commission in the fight against forgery and financial crimes
Images Money (Flickr) One of the EU’s first post-Brexit priorities has been the fight against money laundering.

In the shadow of Brexit and the Green deal, the EU is developing a vision for its internal security and external control: ’fortress Europe’ is becoming ’digital investigation Europe’. In this vein, Roberta Metsola’s report on ‘fake online documents’ and the “Declaration by the Council and Commission on the status of the EU’s struggle against money laundering” do not leave any room for doubt. We are witnessing a collaboration in which elected officials could raise new issues about the project’s impact, and bring a valuable contribution to an institutional exchange.

On Wednesday 12 February, the first post-Brexit plenary session took place in Strasbourg. In this session, there were two texts that were particularly under consideration: Roberta Metsola’s report, entitled “fake and authentic online documents” and the “declaration by the Council and Commission on the status of the EU’s struggle against money laundering”.

Cooperation between Member States was definitely the overarching theme during these two items on the agenda. They were actually an open endorsement of the two reports presented to Parliament. It is now a question of drawing up the legislative framework for a plan of action, which is already in process. Additionally, it will be necessary to secure the interior of the Schengen area to put a border strategy in place.

Cooperation to be developed

Within these objectives, it would seem the most pressing matters are increasing resources for the challenge and securing an agreement between member states in the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin). Discussions therefore did not focus on whether or not to accept Commission projects presented to well-established MEPs, but on the importance of moving faster and drafting legislative acts which have a greater impact.

For Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D), the real problem is data storage. The necessary solution to this problem is creating a border guard agency so that information could be shared in a controlled manner between government institutions and Member States.

Establishing regulation

The Council supports the creation of a standard framework that would define and orientate Frontex’s scope for sharing information about fake documents collected and exchanged between member states. The text would specify the storage of “fakes”. The Frontex agency will be asked to make recommendations about keeping information on these documents.

In the Council, the issue of regulating access to digital data gave rise to discussion. This particularly topical subject is at the center of the debate between protecting personal data, and security. For Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli, citizenship can only be expressed freely if citizens are safe. Safety is fundamental to living, working, studying and for the economy to flourish. We have to strengthen external security using a series of legislative acts, such as border and coast guard regulation.

The Commission will adopt a plan against money laundering: to ensure stability through confidence in financial transactions, it seems necessary to increase financial transparency.

€2000 billion are laundered each year, of which 110 billion within the EU. The Commission has shown its unwavering support for the banking supervision initiative and the creation of financial investigation units. To further these initiatives, it has requested Parliamentary support to give it the necessary powers.

Caveats to take into account

MEP Dragos Tudorache (Renew) nuanced the debate by demonstrating that as the number of travellers increase, so do instances of falsification. In addition to this, it is now a question of protecting access to the data to avoid misuse. The level of access government institutions have to information must be regulated to protect the privacy of individuals.

Sira Rego (European United Left / Nordic Green Left) mentioned an argument that attracted the attention of the Council. She reminded them that during the Fascist years, many people had to use false documents to flee unimaginable horrors. Thus, "it is essential to bear in mind that traveling with or without fake identity documents should not be considered a criminal act. Some travellers are in situations where they have no other choice”.

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