ECB press conference on the occasion of the Signing of the Agreement between the European Central Bank and Europol

Willem F. Duisenberg, President of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt am Main, 13 December 2001

First of all, I should like to stress that the signing of the current agreement by the Director of Europol, Mr. Storbeck, and myself marks a very important step in the co-operation between our two institutions, while being neither its start nor its culmination. This will be an ongoing process of close co-operation, which will also involve other important players, such as the European Commission at the European level and Interpol at the international level.

Co-operation between Europol and the European Central Bank (ECB) already began a few years ago, even before Europol had received the official mandate for dealing with counterfeit issues. I think there have been very few examples of similarly close and fruitful contact at different levels between two institutions. From the outset, the division of labour, the interfaces and the areas of close co-operation were not controversial, even when it came to the details, which is often where the real difficulties arise. We do not therefore need this formal agreement between our two institutions to resolve any contentious issues, but rather see it as a manifestation of our joint and co-ordinated efforts in the fight against counterfeiting.

If I were to highlight the main issues addressed in the Agreement, I should first of all like to stress the annual meetings between the Director of Europol and the President of the ECB to review the implementation of the Agreement. This demonstrates the importance that we attach to the co-operation between the two institutions.

The major part of the Agreement deals with the exchange of information and mutual assistance in different areas. In this context, I should like to mention the role of the ECB as a central collection point for technical and statistical information on counterfeit euro banknotes and coins. Counterfeit banknotes will be analysed at the ECB and all technical and statistical data on both counterfeit banknotes and coins will be stored in a database which is being established at the ECB. This data will be immediately accessible to Europol and will thus become an integral part of the information, which is needed for an in-depth analysis of a counterfeit case to support police investigations. This division of labour and close co-operation will lead to the optimal exploitation of existing resources and expertise, respecting the competencies of each institution.

Comprehensive co-operation and a full exchange of information between all relevant parties are an important element in the concept of preventing and combating counterfeiting. This concept includes three additional elements: First, banknotes which are well protected against counterfeiting; experts have confirmed that the euro banknotes are extremely well protected. Second, a publicity and training campaign to make the banknotes and their security features known to the general public and professional cash handlers; to this end, the ECB, together with the national central banks of the euro area, launched a massive media campaign on 30 August 2001. Third, protection of the banknotes through appropriate legislation; this has been put in place at the European level.

In conclusion, I am very confident that we have put in place all the necessary measures to reduce counterfeiting and to bring any counterfeiter to justice. I am also pleased with the good co-operation between Europol and the ECB in a matter which is of utmost importance to assure confidence in and the reputation of the euro cash.

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