Today the Commission adopted an Action Plan to strengthen the fight against terrorism financing. The tragic events in Paris last year and terror attacks outside EU again showed us the urgent need to fight the sources of terrorism financing. The Commission has worked very intensively to present its strategy today and I would like to thank my fellow Commissioners and Commission staff for their efforts.
So what we are proposing exactly today? We have proposed an Action Plan that is both ambitious and focused on these areas where the EU can be most effective in tackling the terrorism financing. We are setting out actions on three priorities: preventing and tracking financial movements potentially linked to terrorism financing, disrupting the sources of terrorist revenue and encouraging international cooperation.
Our first priority is to prevent terrorist organisations and their backers to move funds and other assets. We must make sure law enforcement authorities can use information about financial movements wherever possible to trace terrorists and stop them from committing crimes. The 4th Anti-Money-Laundering Directive, which was agreed in Spring last year, is important in this respect. We are calling on Member States to transpose this Directive into national law by the end of this year, well ahead of the official mid-2017 deadline.
And we will propose legislative amendments already in the Spring on five issues:
- To ensure a better oversight over anonymous prepaid cards;
- We must ensure due diligence checks for transactions with third countries that are high-risk in terms of terrorism financing;
- Virtual currency platforms and their users must be identified or tracable;
- All bank accounts of an identified person must be centrally registered or retrievable; and
- Financial Intelligence Units within the EU, which track suspicious financial transactions, must have better access to information.
In addition to this proposal, we will explore further measures to tackle illicit movements of cash and precious metals, and to complete the EU's framework for freezing terrorists' assets and tracking terrorist finance. To prevent terrorism financing, those who help it must be severely sanctioned. We will propose legislation to harmonise the definition of money laundering criminal offences and to harmonise sanctions.
Our second priority is to disrupt the sources of revenue of terrorist organisations. We will make legislative proposals to reinforce the powers of customs authorities and their cooperation, so that they can retain any goods linked to terrorism financing. And we will make legislative proposals to tackle head-on the illicit trade in cultural artefacts.
Thirdly, as terrorism financing networks are international, we have to strengthen our cooperation with third countries.
Overall, the Action Plan is balanced and avoids unnecessary obstacles to the way payments and financial markets should work for ordinary people. It provides a very good basis for going forward with the Dutch Presidency and the European Parliament in the coming weeks and months, starting with the ECOFIN Council next week.
On the second topic, on Schengen. Last week, the College discussed a draft evaluation report on Greece. It was submitted to the Schengen Evaluation committee last week and received a positive opinion. Consequently, the College of Commissioners has today adopted the Schengen Evaluation Report on Greece and a proposal for a Council Recommendation on addressing the deficiencies on Greek borders. The recommendations focus on the need to improve registration procedures, including ensuring a sufficient number of staff and fingerprint scanners for registration and verification of migrants. Also their travel documents must be registered and verified against the Schengen Information System, Interpol and national security databases. The recommendations call on Greece to establish effective coastal surveillance system covering the whole sea border between Greece and Turkey. Such action should be supported by an offshore patrol boats, helicopters as well as sufficient number of land patrols on the island. This would help to detect all vessels, including small boats that are crossing the sea border from Turkey to Greece. Our recommendations also call on Greece to provide the necessary facilities for accommodation during the registration process. Recommendations ask for an immediate launch of return procedures for irregular migrants who are not seeking asylum and who are not in need of international protection. These recommendations will now need to be adopted by the Council.
Let me stress two things. First, we are talking here about making use of the provisions that exist under the Schengen Borders Code to ensure that our external borders function properly. And second, identifying deficiencies on the external borders in Greece is about tackling problems head-on. We know that Greece is already working on correcting the deficiencies. The Commission and other Member States are supporting Greece in its efforts. So it is about living up to our collective challenge.
The College also discussed the state of play on Portugal's Draft Budgetary Plan. Last week, we sent a letter to Portugal asking for additional information. There have been very intensive exchanges with the Portuguese authorities. Nevertheless, so far, we have not made enough of progress towards complying with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. So the work will continue extensively during the next few days.