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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 17 December 2013

European Parliament committee backs Commission proposal to protect euro from counterfeiting

A key European Parliament committee has today backed a European Commission proposal to better protect the euro from counterfeiting through the use of criminal law measures (IP/13/88). The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted by 46 in favour, with 2 abstentions to support the Commission's proposal and enter negotiations with the Member States in the Council. The proposal aims to crack down on criminals who counterfeit euro notes and coins – a crime estimated to have cost at least €500 million over the past decade. New measures would include strengthening cross-border investigations and introducing minimum rules on penalties, including imprisonment, for the most serious counterfeiting offences. The draft law would also enable the analysis of seized forgeries during judicial proceedings in order to detect further counterfeit euros in circulation.

"The euro is our common currency. If we don't take action to protect it, nobody else will," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "I am grateful to the European Parliament and to its rapporteur, Anthea McIntyre, for their support for the Commission’s proposal. This is solid work upon which we can build. I do regret however that the European Parliament did not agree on introducing minimum sanctions for the most serious offences. This would have been an additional deterrent for crimes against our common currency and it was supported by the European Central Bank. Mario Draghi knows what is good for the euro."

"We will continue working closely with the European Parliament and Ministers in the Council to build on today's important vote and get the law adopted swiftly so we can close regulatory loopholes and put a stop to currency counterfeiting across the European Union," Vice-President Reding added.

Anti-fraud Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta said: "This proposal is important for ensuring confidence in our most valuable asset: the euro. It is also needed to protect honest businesses and citizens from ending up with fake money in their pockets. We have to have a strong and unified response to protecting our currency and clamping down on the criminals that threaten it."

The draft Directive, which is a joint initiative of Vice-President Reding, Vice-President Rehn and Commissioner Šemeta, will oblige Member States to make effective investigative tools available for detecting currency counterfeiting cases, equivalent to those used to combat organised or other serious crime. Under the Commission's proposal, a maximum penalty of at least eight years would be introduced for the offence of distribution of counterfeit currency (as already applies today for the offence of production according to Council Framework Decision 200/383/JHA). This will strengthen the protection of the euro by better deterring criminals across the EU and improving cooperation between judicial authorities, to help catch fraudsters. The European Parliament's vote today did not back the Commission's proposal to introduce a minimum penalty of at least six months imprisonment for serious cases of production and distribution of counterfeit currency.

Next Steps: Today's vote gives a mandate to the European Parlaiment to enter into negotiations with the Council of Ministers – so-called trilogue negotiations - in order to find a political agreement. This agreement will then need to be approved by the European Parlaiment Plenary and by Ministers in the Council.

Background

In total, around €913 billion worth of euro notes and €16 billion worth of euro coins are in circulation around the world.

The euro and other currencies continue to be targeted by organised crime groups active in money forgery. Since its introduction in 2002, counterfeiting of the euro has led to financial damage amounting to at least 500 million. This is illustrated by the seizure of large amounts of counterfeit euro notes and coins and the continuous dismantling of illegal print shops and mints each year within and outside the European Union. These developments show that the current measures against counterfeiting are insufficient and, therefore, that an improved protection of the euro is needed at European level. 280,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the second semester of 2012.

According to the latest figures from the European Central Bank, the €20 and €50 denomination banknotes are the most counterfeited, accounting together for more than 80%. The majority (98.5%) of counterfeits recovered in the first half of 2013 were found in euro area countries, with only around 1.5% being found in EU Member States outside the euro area and in other parts of the world.

The proposed Directive builds on and replaces Council Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA on increasing the protection, by criminal penalties and other sanctions, against counterfeiting in connection with the introduction of the euro. The Directive maintains most of the provisions of the Framework Decision(in particular preserving the definitions of the offences laid down) whilst taking into account novelties introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, which reinforced the EU's capacity to combat fraud by giving it the competence to legislate in the area of criminal law. The Directive will also require Member States to ensure that the National Analysis Centres and the National Coin Analysis Centres are able to examine euro counterfeits during on-going judicial proceedings to enable the detection of further counterfeit euros in circulation.

For more information

Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Justice:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Homepage of Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/semeta/index_en.htm

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice

European Commission – criminal law policy:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/criminal/criminal-law-policy/index_en.htm

Memo/13/63

For the legislative text, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/euro-protection/legislation/index_en.htm


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