EU Policy: AMLA, the EU’s new anti-money laundering agency, will be based in Frankfurt

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EU Policy: AMLA, the EU's new anti-money laundering agency, will be based in Frankfurt

Germany’s financial center overtook major cities such as Paris, Madrid and Rome in a vote on February 22

Frankfurt won the race to host AMLA, the EU’s new anti-money laundering agency.

Germany’s financial center beat major cities such as Paris, Madrid and Rome in a voting procedure on February 22 that could set a new precedent for the future location of EU institutions.

Mairead McGuinness of the European Commission told reporters, “In recent years we have heard many alarm bells ringing about money laundering through the traditional financial system. Tonight we are responding to those calls,” McGuinness told reporters.

The institution is the latest pillar of an EU reform that calls for restrictions on large cash transactions and new identity checks for football managers and sponsors.

The decision follows the scandal in which Danske Bank was found guilty of laundering hundreds of billions of dollars of shadowy Russian funds through its Tallinn branch, and the collapse of credit institutions such as Malta’s Pilatus and Latvia’s ABLV.

While major EU institutions such as the European Commission and the Parliament are based in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, their agencies dealing with more specialized or analytical tasks are scattered across the bloc.

While countries generally support the idea of spreading the EU’s institutions and bringing decision-making closer to home, remote institutions can struggle to find staff.

Voting process
With nine candidates for AMLA, officials were not convinced of a clear outcome until the last moment.

“The process was set up to find a winner, but we will see if the process will be successful,” Belgian Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem, who currently chairs the council, told euronews on Tuesday.

In practice, the Council seems to have reached agreement by voting in a way that virtually guarantees Frankfurt’s victory.

In the final round of secret balloting, Frankfurt received 28 votes, Madrid 16, Paris six and Rome four, MEP Eva Maria Poptcheva (Spain/Renew Europe) told reporters that Frankfurt was not the favorite choice of MEPs.

“Germany was not the best performer in terms of the anti-money laundering framework,” Poptcheva said, referring to a criterion considered important for lawmakers.

Poptcheva said the new process “does not set a legal precedent” but “is probably basically a working process”. This suggests that the bloc could use a similar system in the future for sanctions or for selecting institutions involved in child sexual abuse.

Given that the AMLA is responsible for directly supervising the bloc’s 40 riskiest banks, the choice of a major financial center may also reflect practical concerns.


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