European Union blacklists Tunisia for money laundering and terrorism
Despite fierce opposition, Tunisia has been added to the European blacklist of third countries thought to be at “high risk” of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Despite intense efforts by some MEPs, they failed to achieve the 376-vote absolute majority needed to reject the inclusion of Tunisia, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago to the European Commission’s list of non-EU countries considered to have strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regimes.
The vote on Wednesday reflected the split in Parliament over the issue, with 357 votes in support of the motion, to 283 votes against, and 26 abstentions.
MEPs who tabled the motion focused their opposition on the inclusion of Tunisia. They believe the addition of the North African country is undeserved; that it is a burgeoning democracy in need of support and that the listing fails to recognise the recent steps it has taken to strengthen its financial system against criminal activity. The other two countries were included in the same delegated act.
As part of its obligations under the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive, the European Commission is periodically obliged to draw up a list of “high-risk third countries”.
Parliament has veto power over the blacklist, which is one of the tools in the European Union’s armoury to protect its financial system against money laundering and terrorist financing. However, for many months, the list has been a source of disagreement between the European Commission and Parliament.
MEPs rejected two previous versions, after disagreements over the methodology used by the Commission for compiling the list. Since then, the two bodies have agreed on a new methodology, which will be introduced from the end of this year, for adding and removing countries.
In mid-December, in line with its custom of following the lead of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Commission decided to include Tunisia and the other two states to its blacklist, sparking the present controversy.
In a statement to Parliament on Monday, the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová, declined some MEPs’ requests to delist Tunisia immediately. She said the Commission would reassess the country’s progress “as early as possible” this year. “However, we are not there yet,” she added.