EU unveils plan to curb funding to extremists

BRUSSELS – The European Union unveiled new measures to curb the financing of extremist groups Tuesday amid calls for more action following last year’s attacks in Paris.

The proposals aim to track extremists as they move money or assets and limit their ability to raise funds by targeting their sources of income.

“We want to improve the oversight of the many financial means used by terrorists, from cash and cultural artefacts to virtual currencies and anonymous pre-paid cards,” said European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis.

The plan would oblige EU financial institutions to carry out compulsory checks on money flows from countries with doubtful records on money-laundering and extremist financing.

It would boost intelligence-sharing among EU finance experts and give them more access to bank and payment data.

Virtual money like bitcoins would come under scrutiny when exchanged for real currencies, and limits would be imposed on anonymous transactions with pre-paid cash cards.

EU agencies will also give support to countries in the Middle East and North Africa so that they can better fight the trafficking of cultural goods and artefacts which could help fund extremists.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin welcomed the proposals. He had urged for more rapid EU action two weeks ago, more than a year after the issues were first raised.

“What I want now is that they are rapidly put into effect,” he said in a statement.

The EU’s executive Commission would be able to take immediate action on some measures, while others would have to be endorsed by member states. The full plan could be in force by the end of 2017.