Combating money laundering – EU states call for a cash ceiling

Brussels (APA) – The EU states are demanding a cash ceiling of 10,000 euros in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. As announced by the Council, the member countries adopted their common position on the corresponding legislative texts on Wednesday. The individual nation states can also set a lower cash ceiling. Austria’s Finance Minister Markus Brunner (Austrian People’s Party/ÖVP) recently criticized such a limit. “I am against upper limits in principle,” Brunner stressed on the sidelines of an EU finance ministers’ meeting on Tuesday in Brussels.

“Cash is an important part of our identity in Europe, which is why cash must also go hand in hand with the digital option, the card option,” he said.

His German counterpart Christian Lindner said something similar. Germany is against an upper limit, Lindner said according to German press agency dpa. He added that cash was also an expression of privacy and data protection.

Apart from introducing a cash ceiling, the EU states also intend the new regulations to apply for, among other things, the crypto market and people who trade in precious stones and metals as well as cultural goods, the Council announced. Jewelers, watchmakers and goldsmiths would therefore also be affected by the regulation. In addition, beneficial ownership rules should be made more transparent and multi-layered ownership and control structures should be clarified. The decision had to be taken by a qualified majority, meaning a minimum of 15 out of the 27 EU states, which together account for at least 65 percent of the total population of the EU. Now the states still have to negotiate this with  the European Parliament before the new rules can enter into force. (December 7)

EU: Airlines will have to pay for their CO2 emissions

Brussels (AFP) – Airlines will have to pay for the CO2 emissions of their intra-European flights, with the disappearance of free quotas that they previously enjoyed, according to an agreement reached by the EU on Wednesday. International flights will remain excluded.

The agreement is part of the vast European climate plan. In addition to flights within the EU, it will also apply to flights between the EU and the United Kingdom or Switzerland, but for the moment, it excludes flights between Europe and the rest of the world, according to a press release from the Council of the EU. Intra-European flights are already subject to the carbon emission quota market (Emissions Trading System, ETS), where airlines can buy and trade the “polluting rights” required to offset their emissions. Until now, they have been offered free quotas covering most of their programs to protect them in competition against foreign rivals. (December 7)

Leaders of the European Union and Western Balkans: accelerate the accession process

Tirana (FENA) – European Union officials and leaders of the Western Balkan countries signed a joint declaration on relations between the EU and the region at a summit in Tirana. It said that the escalation of Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine threatens European and global peace and security.

“The EU reconfirms its full and unequivocal commitment to the European Union membership perspective of the Western Balkans and calls for the acceleration of the accession process, based upon credible reforms by partners, fair and rigorous conditionality and the principle of own merits, which is in our mutual interest,” the document said. It welcomes the determination of the Western Balkans partners to support fundamental European values ​​and principles in accordance with international laws.

After the summit in Tirana, European Council President Charles Michel said that future generations would be safer and the future better if the Western Balkan countries became part of the European Union, stressing that the integration process was crucial.

He also said that the partners need to work on improving the rule of law, the fight against corruption and similar problems that are happening in the Western Balkans. When prompted by a journalist about the possibility of granting Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) candidate status next week, he said that there was a clear proposal on the table and added that he supported BiH’s efforts to secure candidate status.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also stressed that support for the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU is very strong and expressed support for BiH’s candidate status.

As part of the summit, leaders of the Western Balkan countries attended the signing of a statement concerning roaming costs between the European Union and regional telecom operators.

The signing was attended by Michel, von der Leyen, the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic, Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski.

The roaming declaration allows for the reduction of roaming prices between the EU and the region from 1 October 2023. (December 6)

EU wants to unblock loan to Ukraine without Hungary

Brussels (Belga) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s government blocks the loan which the EU promised to Ukraine, saying they prefer bilateral assistance. Hungary may want to pressure the EU into releasing the 13 billion euros of cohesion and recovery support intended for the country. Hungary is in danger of losing it because it is not doing enough to combat corruption and ensure the independence of the judiciary.

The European finance ministers, who met in Brussels on Tuesday, are now working on a solution to be able to grant the loan without Hungary, according to Czech minister Zbynek Stanjura, who chaired the meeting. The plan is still to make an initial deposit of a loan in January, with interest rates to be borne by the European countries.

Hungary is also opposed to the introduction of a minimum tax on the profits of multinationals. Like the loan to Ukraine, Budapest is taking that dossier hostage to keep the other member states from blocking cohesion and recovery funds for Hungary.

According to Belgium, these four dossiers should be dealt with together. They will probably be reviewed again next week at the level of the ambassadors before returning to the ministers’ tables. Some member states would like to bring the discussion to the level of the heads of government, who will meet in Brussels for a summit on 15 and 16 December. (December 6)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Wednesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.