EU member states have agreed to ramp up efforts to combat terrorist financing by cracking down on suspicious wire transfers and prepaid cards. A commission is set to present detailed proposals in the coming weeks.
In the wake of last month's terrorist attacks in Paris, EU finance ministers agreed on Tuesday to step up efforts to restrict financial channels which fund terrorism.
"This is the priority of priorities today, because each of our countries is under the threat of a terrorist act," said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin ahead of the meeting with his 27 counterparts in Brussels.
France led the charge during Tuesday's EU finance minister meeting. The country has proposed measures to improve cross-border cooperation between financial investigators, freeze terrorist assets throughout the EU, more strictly monitor the use of prepaid cards and virtual currencies, and to access data related to suspicious SWIFT wire transfers in Europe.
Sapin's fellow finance ministers agreed to speed up action, both on previously agreed measures and the additional steps proposed by France. He said the European Commission will start work immediately on new proposals, set to be finalized at the next EU finance minister meeting in January.
Implementation speed up
Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also chairs the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, said that the new laws couldn't come soon enough. "We need them quite quickly, and we need to try and speed up the implementation process," he insisted.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said France delivered "a number of good proposals" during the meeting. He admitted that the EU finance ministers can do little to stop the oil exports of the terrorist group "Islamic State" (IS), but he said they can help to stem the sales of weapons and explosives. Schäuble also said that the illegal sale of art and antiques must be better controlled, "because it is an important source to finance terrorism."
France was satisfied with the ministers' response, Sapin said, highlighting that there was a "true willingness ... to act, to act fast and to act firmly to avoid overly easy financing of terrorism anywhere on the European Union's territory."
Tuesday's efforts are the latest in an overall EU clampdown on terrorist activities. Late on Monday, EU lawmakers reached an initial agreement to protect energy, transportation, banking, and health care sectors against cyberattacks.
Under the agreement, online marketplaces like eBay or Amazon, as well as search engines like Google, will be required to ensure the security of their infrastructure. The deal still requires formal approval from the EU legislature and member states, but it is expected to pass without a problem.
"Member states will have to cooperate more on cybersecurity - which is even more important in light of the current security situation in Europe," added German lawmaker Andreas Schwab, on behalf of the EU Parliament.
rs/jr (AP, AFP, dpa)