Just months after its original ‘blacklist’ of countries thought to have slack money laundering regulations was scrapped, the European Union is set to try again.
EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova has announced that a new list with a new methodology is to be compiled, drawn up in conjunction with the member states that vetoed the original one by 27 votes to one.
The sticking point first time around was the naming on Saudi Arabia on the list, plus four US overseas territories. At the time, the Saudi government reportedly warned of “severe negative consequences” for European partners—no idle threat, given that France and the UK make billions in arms sales to the kingdom. And the US ambassador told the EU that “the way in which it was handled is despicable.” The document would have forced European banks to perform ‘enhanced’ anti-money laundering checks on people and cash coming from the territories on the list.
Jourova said her team was right to list Saudi Arabia the first time. “We honestly did our best to have the methodology right and to have the assessment right,” she told the Financial Times, adding that its demise “is still not easy for me to swallow.”
She accepted criticism that the Commission should have communicated with the jurisdictions that were blacklisted, and added that the list was too ‘one size fits all’. She added that the new list would be more ‘grey’ than black.
Transparency International welcomed the EU’s renewed efforts, but warned against diluting the list. “The risk of this becoming a political game is quite high, with the member states intervening quite early in the process,” said Laure Brillau, a senior policy officer in Transparency International’s Brussels office, who called for the process to be made transparent. “All these blacklists are always a bit of a horse-trading exercise.”
EU spokesman Christian Wigand commented: “The Commission is working with the [non-EU] third countries concerned given that our main aim is to improve their anti money-laundering and terrorist financing framework.”