Brussels has proposed on Wednesday to expand its "black list" to fight against money laundering and the
financing of terrorism. The European Union wants to add seven countries, including
Saudi Arabia, in a context of tensions with Ryad following the Khashoggi affair.
The aim is to "protect the EU's financial system", says Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova. This initiative of the European Commission will still have to be given the green light by the European Parliament and the EU countries. The new target countries, including Saudi Arabia and Panama, add to the 16 already on the list, such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Ethiopia and North Korea.
No sanction but reinforced controls
"We have the world's most stringent anti-money laundering standards in place," she continued. "But we have to make sure that dirty money from other countries does not end up in our financial system," she added.
The fact of being on this list does not trigger sanctions, but it forces European banks to apply reinforced controls on financial transactions with customers or financial institutions in these countries. Out of some 50 countries scrutinized, the Commission concluded that 23 presented "strategic shortcomings" in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
The initiative of the European executive is not unanimous within the EU. The reluctance of capitals such as Paris or London is interpreted by some as a desire not to exacerbate relations with certain countries. Especially those with Saudi Arabia, particularly strained since the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Committed in early October in the consulate of his country in Istanbul by a commando from Ryad, this crime deeply tarnished the image of Saudi leaders, and caused strong tensions with Western capitals. Countries wishing to oppose the new "black list" have a period of one month (extendable by one month) to gather a qualified majority of hostile member states.