In a recently adopted opinion, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the European Commission's proposal to amend the European System of Financial Supervision (ESFS) with the objective of better tackling money laundering and terrorist financing in the European banking and financial sector, but calls for more comprehensive measures. These issues are, in its view, becoming increasingly dangerous in terms of the stability, safety and reputation of financial institutions and the financial sector as a whole. Additional measures are therefore of the utmost importance.
"The latest series of banking scandals has shown that previous improvements in the legislative framework covering financial supervision in these matters did not strengthen the regime enough to meet the rapid technological change and financial innovations that provide new tools for perpetrators to exploit the system for criminal ends. We therefore welcome the Commission's agility in response to this issue", said Petr Zahradník, EESC rapporteur.
The EESC, a consultative body at EU level, giving a voice on EU issues to Europe's socio-occupational interest groups, among others, believes that additional measures should limit or eliminate existing risks and prevent future risks. The proposed step-by-step approach to their implementation would be preferable to avoid significant disruptions to the stability and functioning of the existing system.
Despite its general support for the Commission proposal, the Committee believes that the proposal does not go far enough and that several aspects must be clarified, like the scope of the European Banking Authority's (EBA) mandate. Coordination between supervisory bodies should not only be strengthened and procedures streamlined but operations should also be coordinated with other relevant parties.
Rapporteur Petr Zahradník said in this regard: "This problem is increasingly important in relation to third countries. Money laundering is not only taking place within the EU and across internal borders, but also involves third countries. Thus, we urge the Commission for a more detailed outline of the new relationships between the EBA and other EU supervisory authorities, as well as national and, especially, third countries' supervisory authorities."
A balanced relationship between all parties involved should be established, allowing for the best use of all capacities and synergies to effectively resolve the problem. The subsidiarity principle must be respected.
In its opinion, the EESC also stresses the need for effective communication on how the problem is being tackled. Communication between supervisory bodies should be improved and better protected and the public concerned should be provided with information and made aware of the different ways that this crime may present itself. Improving this external communication could have a preventive effect.
In addition, the EESC is of the view that more comprehensive measures would be needed to address this very dangerous problem effectively, precluding and limiting the means available for committing these crimes or legalising its proceedings and keeping financial institutions and the financial system healthy and stable.
The Commission's amendments to a legislative proposal on the reform of the ESFS, in co-decision with Parliament and Council since 2017, want to centralise supervisory tasks relating to preventing and combating money-laundering and terrorist financing, basing them at the EBA. Doing so will optimise the use of expertise and resources dedicated to these issues and improve the effectiveness of supervision. The EBA will become the EU's central institution for coordination as regards anti-money laundering efforts within the EU and for cases that cross into third countries. Furthermore, the EBA will be given authority to investigate weaknesses in measures taken by national authorities and financial institutions to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing. Information gathered will be made available to relevant competent authorities as appropriate. The EBA will also be allowed to request that national authorities investigate possible breaches of rules regarding money laundering and terrorist financing and in certain cases will be able to interact directly with financial sector operators.