Strengthened EU rules to prevent money laundering and fight terrorism financing enter into force today
Today, the 5th Anti-Money laundering Directive has entered into force following its publication in the EU’s Official Journal. Proposed by the Commission in July 2016, the new rules bring more transparency on the real owners of companies and tackle risks of terrorist financing. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “This is another important step to strengthen the EU framework to combat financial crime and terrorist financing. The 5th Anti-Money laundering directive will make the fight against money laundering more efficient. We must close all loopholes: gaps in one Member State will have an impact on all others. I urge Member States to stay true to their commitment and update their national rules as soon as possible.” The new rules introduce stricter transparency requirements, including full public access to the beneficial ownership registers for companies, greater transparency in the registries of beneficial ownership of trusts, and interconnection of these registers. The key improvements also include: limiting the use of anonymous payments through pre-paid cards, including virtual currency exchange platforms under the scope of the anti-money laundering rules; widening customer verification requirements; requiring stronger checks on high-risk third countries as well as more powers for and closer cooperation between national Financial Intelligence Units. The 5th Anti-Money laundering directive also increases the cooperation and exchange of information between anti-money laundering and prudential supervisors, including with the European Central Bank. The Juncker Commission has made the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing one of its priorities.This proposal was the first initiative of the Action Plan to step up the fight against terrorist financing following the terror attacks and part of a broader drive to boost tax transparency and tackle tax abuse in the aftermath of the Panama Papers revelations. Member States will have to implement these new rules into their national legislation before 10 January 2020. In addition, in May 2018 the Commission invited the European Supervisory Authorities (European Central Bank, European Banking Authority, European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, European Securities and Markets Authority) to a joint working group to improve the practical coordination of anti-money laundering supervision of financial institutions. Work in this group is now ongoing and a first exchange with Member States is planned in September. For more information see a factsheet on the main changes brought by the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive.
EU and NATO to sign joint declaration
Ahead of the NATO meeting of Heads of State or Government on 11 and 12 July in Brussels, where Presidents Juncker and Tusk will represent the European Union, tomorrow the EU and NATO will reaffirm their joint commitment to one another, with a joint declaration on EU-NATO cooperation. The joint declaration will be signed by President Juncker, President Tusk and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. For journalists interested in attending the signature and press statements (at +/- 12:00), the meeting point will be in the Council’s Europa building forum at 11:30. Please note that access will not be possible via the Residence Palace. To attend, register via email to firstname.lastname@example.org before 9:30 tomorrow, Tuesday 10 July. Coverage will also be available via EbS.
State aid: Commission concludes Dutch guarantee scheme involves no aid
The European Commission has found that the “Growth Facility”, a Dutch scheme to facilitate investments by providing guarantees on 50% of new subordinated loans and equity, does not involve State aid within the meaning of EU rules. The objective of the scheme is to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Under the Growth Facility scheme, the Dutch State guarantees 50% of new subordinated loans and equity to these companies, for up to 12 years. Loans guaranteed under the scheme can range from €2.5 million to €25 million. The Commission found that the fees paid in exchange for the guarantees give the Dutch State an appropriate remuneration level, ensuring that the scheme is self-financing, including administrative costs and the remuneration of virtual capital. This is the capital that a company operating on market terms would set aside as a precaution if it issued such a guarantee. Therefore, the Commission concluded that the Dutch guarantee scheme does not constitute State aid to the banks, nor to the borrowing companies. In March 2018, the Commission approved a similar measure, the “Extended Growth facility”. More information will be available on the Commission’s competitionwebsite, in the public case register, under the case number SA.48197.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Helios by Mitsui and Kansai
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Kansai Helios Coatings GmbH (“Helios”) of Austria by Mitsui & Co Ltd. and Kansai Paint Co. Ltd, both of Japan. Through this transaction, Mitsui acquires joint control over Helios together with Kansai, which currently already controls Helios. Helios is a coating manufacturer focusing mainly on industrial coatings, but is also active in decorative paints and other related products. Mitsui is a trading house with global activities in the sale and distribution of commodities and other products ranging from electronics to chemicals. Kansai is a chemical company mainly active in the production and sales of decorative paints and other coatings. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given that the companies only have a few overlapping activities, in markets where neither is a significant player. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8973.
Mergers: Commission clears creation of joint venture by PIMCO and Echo
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the creation of a joint venture by Pacific Investment Management Company LLC (“PIMCO”) of the US and Echo Investment S.A. of Poland. The newly established joint venture will provide real estate rental services. PIMCO, controlled by PIMCO and Oaktree Capital Group LLC of the US, is engaged in investment activities, including in real estate. Echo develops real estate in the office, retail and residential sectors. The Commission concluded that the proposed concentration would raise no competition concerns, because of the limited impact it would have on the market. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8904.
Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides following the deadly flooding and landslides in Japan
Many people have lost their lives, hundreds of thousands lost their livelihoods and have been displaced, with many others in further danger due to the deadly flooding and landslides in Western Japan. At this difficult time, the European Union stands in full solidarity with the people and authorities of Japan. We express our condolences to all those who lost their loved ones. Right now our thoughts are with the brave first responders, the emergency services and the volunteers who are engaged in the search and rescue operations, doing everything possible to save lives and to help people in need. The European Union stands ready to provide any assistance to our Japanese friends. The statement is available online here