The key to the war against terrorism.
Fighting jihadists requires attacking their means and, above all, their funding.
Daesh challenges us with its violence, but also with its ability to finance its activities. Indeed, money is the lifeblood of this war into which these terrorists have led us. Fighting jihadists requires attacking their means and, above all, their funding. This is what France, through the voice of Michel Sapin, asked for after the first attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. The European Commission adopted on 2 February an action plan that is specifically responding to this emergency situation.
This plan tackles terrorists in two ways: in their fundraising activities and their movement of funds.
This plan tackles terrorists in two ways: in their fundraising activities and their movement of funds. Do not expect the impossible: it will not dry out all Daesh funds immediately, a significant portion of which come from the control of a territory – local bank robberies, kidnapping ransoms and oil revenues… but it will help to destabilize its operations and to limit its means.
European customs will be key in depriving terrorists from their sources of income.
European customs will be key in depriving terrorists – whose methods have evolved – from their sources of income:
- The illicit exploitation of trade in goods is the « new frontier ». We are here speaking of diverse methods, costly to implement but difficult to detect, such as under-invoicing, multiple billing, the fraudulent description of goods … The ultimate goal is to disguise the origin of funds and integrate them in the formal economy before mobilising them to fund a terrorist action or group. The powers of customs, which fall within my portfolio at the Commission, will be adjusted to deal with this threat.
A significant amount of cultural property, however, is not destroyed but plundered, and the revenues feed their reserves.
- The plan also targets the trafficking of cultural property. We all remember the destructions by Daesh – like in Palmyra. A significant amount of cultural property, however, is not destroyed but plundered, and the revenues feed their reserves. The plan proposes a comprehensive approach, combining a certification mechanism and closer dialogue with the world of art – museums or auction houses. It is in the coming years that cultural assets, which are seen as a long-term investment by terrorists, will arrive on the European market, once our vigilance drops and false original documents have been produced. We have to prepare for that.
The plan also aims at detecting and preventing the movement of funds that they raise:
Pulling away the veil of anonymity will help to trace their movements and better stop the terrorists.
- The terrorists are now using certain electronic means of payment, attractive because of their anonymity, such as platforms for the exchange of virtual currency or prepaid cards. We are strengthening the requirements to identify consumers and verify their identity. Pulling away the veil of anonymity will help to trace their movements and better stop the terrorists.
- National authorities – starting with the financial intelligence units as Tracfin in France – will be strengthened. New tools will also set up: centralized and national registers of bank accounts and payments – or equivalent systems – will be created in all Member States. This information has played a key role in the investigation after the recent attacks.
Customs must be able to act on cash sent by mail or cargo, or when someone crosses a border of the Union with a limited amount of money.
- Finally the net is closing on cash movements, still very much used by terrorists. Customs must be able to act on cash sent by mail or cargo, or when someone crosses a border of the Union with a limited amount of money – as is often the case with wannabe jihadists – when there is a suspicion of illegal activity.
Europe is in an open struggle against murderous madness that has already played out on its soil too many times.
There is no miracle solution against terrorism. Much has been done by the Commission since the attacks against Charlie Hebdo: measures were taken on firearms and explosives, a directive on terrorism was adopted in December, an agreement was struck on the files of air passengers. But impeding their current financing activities is essential in depriving terrorists of the funds needed to carry out their actions. Europe is in an open struggle against murderous madness that has already played out on its soil too many times. The Commission has an obligation to be where the citizens expect it to be and to show full determination in protecting their security. This is what we are doing today, once again.