The governments of the EU member states have ‘unanimously’ rejected a blacklist of countries that have failed to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing. The paper cited four US territories and was slammed by Washington.
The Council of the European Union has “unanimously decided to reject” the list of “high-risk third countries” – a paper that would require banks and financial institutions operating in Europe to “be more vigilant and to carry out extra checks in the context of transactions” involving these nations.
Surprisingly, as many as four US territories – American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands – found themselves on the list. They were put there alongside about two dozen –mostly Asian and African– nations, including those suffering from acute political and economic turmoil as well as armed conflicts, such as Syria, Yemen or Libya.
This development infuriated Washington. The US Treasury rushed to issue a damning statement the same day the draft list was published by the European Commission. The statement accused the EU of being superficial in its assessment and complained that the European authorities had “failed” to provide the US with “any meaningful opportunity to challenge their inclusion” or to “discuss with the European Commission its basis for including the listed US territories.”
Washington then stated that it flat-out rejects the conclusions of the European Commission and “does not expect” any US financial institutions to take this document into account in their policies and procedures.
In a bizarre coincidence, weeks later, the Council of the European Union, which consists of the ministers representing all 28 EU members, justified its decision to reject the document with the arguments that seemed strikingly similar to those employed by the US Treasury.
The Council “cannot support the current proposal that was not established in a transparent and resilient process that actively incentivizes affected countries to take decisive action while also respecting their right to be heard,” its statement said. It also demanded that the European Commission draft a new list that would address these concerns, apparently implying that it should first discuss the situation with all affected parties before adding them to the list – precisely what Washington wanted.
The decision to remove Washington’s major Middle Eastern ally from the list also came after the Saudis explicitly voiced their opposition to the move, arguing that it could “create difficulties in trade and investment flows between the Kingdom and the European Union.”