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Brussels, 12 January 2007
In 2006 the number of counterfeit euro coins removed from circulation was around 164 000. The number increased considerably from 2005 but is insignificant compared to the total number of 69 billion genuine euro coins in circulation. The competent authorities intensified and better co-ordinated their efforts in fighting counterfeiting while, at the same time, law enforcement continued successful action.
In 2006, nearly 164 000 counterfeit euro coins were removed from circulation, mainly by national Central Banks. This represents an increase of over 63 000 compared to 2005.
The Commission considers that these counterfeit euro coins are, however, not a significant cause of concern for the public, since the overall number is very small by historical standards and by comparison to the 69 billion circulating (genuine) euro coins. These counterfeit coins, while increasingly sophisticated, should generally be rejected by properly adjusted vending and other coin-operated machines.
In addition, almost 14 000 counterfeit euro coins were seized during law enforcement operations before coming into circulation. According to the competent national authorities, one more illegal mint was dismantled in 2006 in Italy. This brings to 12 the total number of illegal mints discovered since the introduction of the euro in 2002.
The most counterfeited euro coin denomination continues to be the 2-euro, accounting for over 86% of the total counterfeits in 2006. The coins with the German national side are the most frequently reproduced, but also coins with the sides of all other euro area members are found. Overall, more than 550 000 counterfeit euro coins have been removed from circulation or seized before use, since 2002.
The large rise in the number of counterfeit coins recorded in 2006 reflects, to a large extent, stronger efforts by the competent authorities to remove counterfeits from circulation. The rules recommended by the Commission make even safer the use of euro coins for the public.
As far as counterfeit euro banknotes are concerned, around 565 000 pieces were withdrawn from circulation in 2006, as announced by the European Central Bank.
In protecting the euro against counterfeiting the Commission collaborates closely with its partners: the European Central Bank (ECB), Europol, Interpol and the national competent authorities.
In line with Regulation (EC) 1338/2001, the European Technical & Scientific Centre (ETSC) carries out the analysis and classification of new stamped counterfeit euro coins. The Council decided, in December 2003, that the Commission ensures the functioning of the ETSC and the co-ordination of the activities of the competent technical authorities to protect the euro coins against counterfeiting. In October 2004, the Commission decided to establish formally the ETSC in the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF), using the technical equipment and installations of the Monnaie de Paris.
Against the background of an increasing number and sophistication of counterfeit euro coins, the Commission issued on 27 May 2005 a Recommendation concerning the authentication of euro coins in order to ensure that circulating euro coins are genuine. The Recommendation provides technical procedures for removing from circulation counterfeit euro coins and other euro coin-like objects and establishes a common framework for the reimbursement of euro coins unfit for circulation. In addition, the Commission/OLAF intensified, in 2006, cooperation with law-enforcement and with the private sector, regarding the protection of euro coins.
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the ‘Pericles’ programme for training and technical assistance for the protection of the euro banknotes and coins against counterfeiting. The Commission prepares legislative initiatives and monitors the implementation of the relevant legislation.
The European Central Bank (ECB) performs a technical analysis of counterfeit euro banknotes of a new type at the Counterfeit Analysis Centre located on the premises of the ECB, stores the technical and statistical data on counterfeit banknotes and coins in a central database, also located at the ECB, and disseminates the relevant technical and statistical information to all those involved in combating counterfeiting.
Europol supports the Member States’ law enforcement services in combating serious organised crime by facilitating the exchange of information and providing operational and strategic analysis. In addition, it provides expertise and technical support for investigations and operations carried out by the Member States’ law enforcement services within the EU. Europol will maintain a central database for law enforcement information relating to euro counterfeiting and will also use the technical database located at ECB. Europol provides the means for financing police investigations in the domain of euro counterfeiting and will become the EU central office for combating euro counterfeiting, when Member States formally assign this responsibility.