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IP/07/1353

Brussels, 18 September 2007

Commission steps up efforts to reinforce the protection of the Euro against counterfeiting

The Commission adopted yesterday a package of measures designed to strengthen the protection against counterfeiting of Euro banknotes and coins: The Commission proposes to make it mandatory for banks and related establishments to ensure the authenticity of Euro banknotes and coins before these are put back into circulation. The Commission also adopted a report that shows that Member States have largely satisfactorily implemented their obligations with regard to criminal penalties against Euro counterfeiting. The Commission now releases its 2006 report on the protection of Euro coins against fraud and counterfeiting, detailing the efforts to remove counterfeits from circulation and including recommendations of what more can be done in terms of cooperation.

Anti-fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas said: "Euro counterfeiting remains a considerable illegal activity but our report clearly shows that the system for the protection of Euro coins is working efficiently. Increased vigilance and increased co-operation between authorities and with industry is necessary to better safeguard the use of Euro coins. However, we also propose to improve existing legislation: To enhance trust in money used, the Commission proposes that professional money handlers should be obliged to verify the authenticity of money they circulate."

Ensuring the authenticity of Euro banknotes and coins (amending Regulation 1338/2001 of 28 June 2001)

The Commission believes it is important that financial institutions ensure the authenticity of Euro banknotes and coins they have received before re-circulating them. Therefore it proposes to add the obligation for these institutions to check for counterfeits. There exist today agreed uniform and effective methods of detection of counterfeits which make this verification easy and perfectly feasible. The ECB and the Commission, respectively, have formally recommended such methods for Euro notes and coins.

Checks for authenticity are carried out by means of sorting machines appropriately adjusted with samples of both genuine and counterfeit banknotes and coins. To ensure availability of counterfeits at the places where testing is conducted for the purpose of adjustment of these machines, it is also newly proposed to authorise the transport of counterfeit banknotes and coins amongst competent bodies.

Penalties and sanctions against counterfeiting (report on the Framework Decision of 29 May 2000)

The report concludes that the transposition by all 27 Member States of the Framework Decision is globally satisfactory. The penalisation of acts of counterfeiting as well as the sanctions provided were generally introduced into Member States’ legislation, thus achieving a homogeneous level of protection of the Euro as required by the Framework Decision. A small number of national measures are still necessary for its complete implementation; these cases of non-compliance mainly concern the level of sanctions, as well as the penalisation of specific acts in certain countries.

2006 report on the protection of Euro coins

This annual report accounts for the Commission's activities to enhance the protection of Euro coins. While Euro coin counterfeiting activity has increased in itself, authentication efforts have largely contributed to the detection of larger numbers of counterfeit Euro coins in 2006. The number of counterfeit Euro coins removed from circulation rose to nearly 164 000 pieces. Mainly concerned are 2-euro coins, followed by 1-euro and 50-cent coins. Counterfeits are found throughout the Euro area as well as in other EU countries and in some third countries.

The number of Euro coin counterfeits found in circulation is still significantly lower than numbers for pre-Euro currencies. Also, the number of counterfeit Euro coins is extremely small compared to the 69 billion genuine Euro coins circulating or to the 13 billion Euro coins of the three larger denominations.

Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands are frontrunners among Member States responding to the Commission’s efforts to render the Euro coins safer to the users, by implementing the procedures included in the Commission’s Recommendation of 27 May 2005 concerning authentication of Euro coins.

Although the system for the protection of Euro coins is working efficiently vigilance needs to be reinforced: (i) coin counterfeiting activity continues to grow, as new types and sub-types of counterfeit Euro coins show; (ii) despite successful law enforcement operations illegal mints are still operating; and (iii) the sophistication of counterfeits continues to increase.

The Commission, to further guarantee the credible use of Euro coins, therefore proposes to increase co-operation between national law enforcement services and Europol, also including technical support facilities in Member States and the Commission/OLAF’s European Technical and Scientific Centre. It is important that all Member States implement the procedures for authentication of circulating Euro coins. Closer co-operation with the coin-operated industry should ensure the efficient rejection of counterfeits and other objects.

The Commission, in co-operation with the Member States, Europol and the ECB, is continuously working to further increase the protection of Euro coins.

More Information:
OLAF website:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/anti_fraud/pages_euro/index_en.html

MEMO/07/19 of 12 January 2007


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