The European Commission (EC) has announced plans to stop the financing of terrorist groups. They include controls on pre-paid credit cards, money transfers and virtual money.
The plans were presented by the executive arm of the European Union in the European Parliament on Tuesday. France has been pushing for controls on anonymous money transfers in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris last January and November. They follow measures announced last month for a center to combat terrorism in Europe.
Investigators found the perpetrators of the Paris attacks used pre-paid credit cards to pay for cars and apartments. The cards are an anonymous alternative to normal bank cards which require full identity information.
"We have to 'follow the money' and cut off the resources these groups use to carry out their heinous crimes," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in a statement.
"By detecting and disrupting the financing of terrorist networks, we can reduce their ability to travel, to buy weapons and explosives, to plot attacks and to spread hate and fear online," Timmermans said in Strasbourg.
The pre-paid cards allow users to withdraw money from bank cash machines and make purchases in stores or online. Virtual money - such as Bitcoin - can be used anonymously for cross-border financial transactions which avoid the surveillance of finance watchdogs and intelligence services.
Last month, the French government criticized the EC for taking too long to present its proposals. But on Tuesday, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin expressed satisfaction with the plan: "I am satisfied that the European Commission adopted the complete action plan that is largely inspired by our proposal and answers all our demands," he said.
The plans also include proposals to limit revenue for groups such as the self-declared "Islamic State" or IS, including from their illegal sale of cultural items and wildlife. An increase in efforts to track money flow through countries deemed suspicious by investigators was also called for.
The former French economy minister and current European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, Pierre Moscovici, said "We remain determined in this race against the clock against terrorism."
The EC hopes most of the proposals will be implemented before the end of 2016. EU finance ministers are due to discuss the plans next week.
jm/ng (AFP, dpa)