EU civil war: States to fight over right to host bloc’s latest agency

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The Anti-Money Laundering Authority will be launched tomorrow as part of the European Commission’s pre-summer legislative onslaught. The proposal will hand eurocrats bloc-wide powers to fight illicit finance, especially the funding of organised crime and terror-related activities. But insiders have warned that member states are taking a bigger interest in where the agency will be located rather than its role in overseeing risk financial firms.

The AMLA, which is expected to be up and running in 2024, will initially only have 250 staff.

Battles over where EU agencies are located are often hard-fought contests between member states.

The reopening of new EU offices introduce hundreds of well-paid eurocrats into the areas, often providing boosts for local hotels and restaurants too.

The AMLA is expected to have an annual budget of more than £39million, making it particularly interesting to potential suitors.

Frankfurt, in Germany, and Paris, in France, are likely to be the early contenders, because they are two of Europe’s main financial services hubs.

Insiders have told the Financial Times that Italy, which lost out on its bid for the European Medicines Agency after its post-Brexit relocation, could be another possible location.

The EMA was moved from London to Amsterdam after Britain voted to quit the bloc in June 2016.

Almost 20 European cities submit bids to host the EU’s drugs watchdog.

The European Banking Authority was almost relocated from the UK and had eight bidders before Paris finally won.

Bidders included Austria and Luxembourg, while both Slovakia and Spain put in failed pitches for the EMA.

The four countries could fancy their chances at hosting the AMLA.

Tussles over hosting EU agencies often cause frictions between member states.

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In the past, Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi abused Finland’s cuisine when Helsinki was bidding for the right to host the European Food Safety Agency.

Eurocrats are expected to present legislation tomorrow for their most ambitious plot yet to tackle illicit finance in the wake of many scandals across the bloc.

There are hundreds of billions of euros of suspicious transactions every year across the EU, but the response to tackle the issue has always been patchy.

Top officials often complain that national governments don’t properly implement the existing anti-money laundering directives that are in place.

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The Commission’s aim is to bolster cooperation between national authorities and improve cross-border flows of information to financial services intelligence units.

The AMLA will directly oversee the “riskiest” transactions and firms themselves and will open operations in multiple member states.

A leaked document said: “By directly supervising and taking decisions towards some of the riskiest cross-border financial sector obliged entities the Authority will contribute directly to preventing incidents of [money laundering and terrorism financing] in the union.

“It will co-ordinate national supervisory authorities and assist them to increase their effectiveness in enforcing the single rule book and ensuring homogenous and high-quality supervisory standards, approaches and risk assessment methodologies.”

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