BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union finance ministers on Tuesday adopted a plan to enhance the bloc’s defenses against money laundering at banks, but the move could slow a legislative reform on banking supervision.
The action plan is meant to be the EU response to high-profile cases of alleged money laundering at banks in several EU states, including Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain, the Netherlands, Britain and Cyprus.
Ministers agreed there was a “need to strengthen the effectiveness of the current framework” to counter money laundering, and proposed some non-legislative actions to implement in coming months.
But the plan did not include any recommendation for legislative changes. Nor did it address calls from the European Central Bank to set up an EU-wide agency to counter money laundering.
The plan could also delay proposed reforms of money-laundering supervision from the European Commission in September, because ministers first want to assess the recent cases of financial crime, the document said, confirming a Reuters report last week.
The Commission’s proposal would have given the European Banking Authority more power to oversee money laundering and would have increased from one to 12 the agency’s staff in charge of monitoring financial crime at thousands of banks in the EU.
The review of past cases is expected to last until June. That would be after EU elections due in May, which makes it likely the new European Parliament will shelve the proposed legislative changes.
The action plan lists measures that would need to be carried out until 2020 and tries to reduce the discretion of national supervisors in applying anti-money laundering rules, which in some states have been executed too leniently.
Under the plan, supervisors will have to clarify existing rules for assessing whether bank managers are fit for their job and on revoking banking licenses for serious breaches of anti- money-laundering rules.
National authorities are also requested to cooperate more closely, but without new binding requirements on exchanging information.
The European Commission is invited to make proposals for other possible changes in the second half of next year, but no indication is given on which long-term reforms should be considered.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Alison Williams, Larry King