Position of EU member states an affront to transparency

December 20th, 2016

20 DECEMBER 2016

In latest position on AMLD revisions, Council aims to keep ‘legitimate interest’ barrier intact, delay implementation by up to three years

Despite being just nine months removed from the Panama Papers, some European Union member states are already trying to back out of commitments made to create fully public registers of company ownership, and even want to delay implementation of the registers themselves. As part of an ongoing review of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD), lawmakers are revisiting the question of making beneficial ownership registers fully open to the public. The current legislation includes a ‘legitimate interest’ clause, meaning that journalists, academics, civil society and the general public must prove why they should be allowed to access the data.

The European Parliament has long backed making the registers fully public; and this past July, in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, which included more than a handful of European politicians and celebrities, the European Commission also decided to come out in support of making registers public by default across the EU. But in today’s meeting, member state representatives opposed making registers public by default and their proposal wouldn’t see registers come online for those with legitimate interest until 2020.

Porter McConnell, Director of the Financial Transparency Coalition released the following statement:

“This move by member states is truly alarming,” said Porter Mcconnell, Director of the Financial Transparency Coalition. “We’re mere months removed from perhaps the most potent example of why we need public registers, and yet EU member states are now trying to keep barriers between the public and information. It’s as if they’ve forgotten the public outcry that followed the Panama Papers revelations”

“Quite extraordinarily, member states are even proposing to dilute the commitments they agreed to last year—company registers were supposed to be accessible to those with a legitimate interest by the end of June 2017, but now they want to postpone this until 2020,” said McConnell. “And with no EU definition of legitimate interest, it looks as though member states will have wide discretion on how restricted access to their national-level register will be. While we don’t want to rely on leaks to discover the next Panama Papers, if the Council’s position is adopted, we may have to do just that.”

Notes to Editors:
  • Read more on the Council’s position here
  • Click here to view a table of various positions on the AMLD revision
  • Click here to read a press release from the Slovak Presidency on the Council’s position
  • A final agreement will be reached through trilogue negotiations between the Council, European Commission, and European Parliament

Christian Freymeyer, +1.410.490.6580

Written by Financial Transparency Coalition

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