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PRESS RELEASE

Joint press release by the European Commission, Europol and the ECB: Establishment of a "Steering Group" and a common inter-institutional strategy for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting

7 March 2001

IP/01/322

1. The introduction of the euro banknotes and coins will take place on 1 January 2002. In the remaining months before this introduction, finalising the establishment of the euro protection system is a priority task.

Following the high-level meeting of senior management representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and Europol in Brussels on 15 February 2001, an inter-institutional Steering Group has been set up.

2. The need for co-ordination was recognised by the Member States, as well as by the institutions and bodies of the European Union (EU), whose roles and responsibilities are complementary. At the European level:

  • the European Commission takes legislative initiatives, contributes in the field of training and financial support, responds to questions and other requests for information by the European Parliament, provides support to the Member States, in particular in the implementation of the law, and co-ordinates the technical action of the Member States with regard to euro coin counterfeiting;
  • the European Central Bank (ECB) performs a technical analysis of counterfeit euro banknotes of a new type at the Counterfeit Analysis Centre located on the premises of the ECB, stores the technical and statistical data on counterfeit banknotes and coins in a central database, also located at the ECB, and disseminates the relevant technical and statistical information to all those involved in combating counterfeiting. In addition, the ECB, together with the 12 national central banks of the euro area, is conducting an information campaign that aims to ensure that the general public is familiar with the new euro banknotes and coins;
  • Europol supports the Member States' law enforcement services in preventing and combating serious organised crime by facilitating the exchange of information and providing operational and strategic analysis. In addition, it provides expertise and technical support for investigations and operations carried out by the Member States' law enforcement services within the EU. Europol will maintain a central database for law enforcement information relating to euro counterfeiting and will also use the ECB's technical database.

3. Initiatives have already been taken at both the national and the EU level to effectively prevent and combat euro counterfeiting, in particular by the European System of Central Banks and by the European Commission in co-operation with the Member States with regard to technical protection, as well as by Europol with regard to organised crime.

In this connection, priority actions for the achievement of a common approach were defined in the Recommendation by the ECB of 7 July 1998 regarding the adoption of certain measures to enhance the legal protection of euro banknotes and coins and in the European Commission Communication of 22 July 1998 to the European Council, the European Parliament and the ECB on the protection of the euro. These actions cover training, an information system, cooperation and protection under criminal law.

In line with this Recommendation and this Communication:

  • the ECB adopted the Guideline establishing the Counterfeit Analysis Centre on 26 August 1999;
  • Europol's mandate was extended on 29 April 1999 to deal with, in particular, the forgery of money and Europol set up specific working groups;
  • a framework Decision was adopted on 29 May 2000 with the aim of increasing protection through criminal penalties and other sanctions against counterfeiting in connection with the introduction of the euro;
  • the negotiations within the European Council on the proposal for a Regulation presented by the European Commission on 26 July 2000 should be completed and the text adopted under the Swedish Presidency; work is well advanced on this Regulation, which aims to establish, in particular, the procedures for the exchange of information on counterfeits and counterfeiting between the relevant institutions and bodies, and to define the co-operation as well as the obligations of credit institutions; and
  • a French initiative of 22 December 2000 on the basis of the Treaty on European Union is intended to complete the framework Decision of 29 May 2000 and the above-mentioned Regulation.

4. The Steering Group, set up following the high-level meeting of senior management representatives of the European Commission, the ECB and Europol in Brussels on 15 February 2001 comprises representatives of the European Commission, the ECB and Europol. It aims to achieve co-ordination between competent bodies by:

  • supporting an overall view of the work undertaken by the different parties involved in protecting the euro;
  • developing a common strategy with regard to the major issues and a coherent approach in particular vis-a-vis the public; and
  • setting out a series of concrete priority measures over time.

The Steering Group prepares the decisions to be adopted, meets regularly and can call high-level meetings.

5. The Steering Group has therefore defined an action plan which will be updated regularly and which includes, as from February 2001, the preparation of a common approach for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting in the areas in which initiatives need to be developed further, such as:

  • training;
  • co-operation arrangements between the institutions and bodies concerned (in the form of agreements);
  • co-ordination of relations with non-EU countries;
  • communication; and
  • legislation.

This action plan aims to ensure the coherence of the overall euro protection system and to leave counterfeiters as little chance as possible of taking advantage of the introduction of the new European currency.

European Commission, Gerassimos Thomas 02/2993442, Luc Veron 02/2958647, Doerthe Ohm 02/2963692

ECB-Press Division, Tel:+49/69/1344 7455

Europol, Dr Evangelos Stergioulis, Mr Rainer Wenning, Ms Dagmar Beerscht, Tel:+31.70.3025000, Fax:+31.70.3180874, Email: info@europol.eu.int

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