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Zero tolerance for counterfeiting the euro: EC proposal clears final hurdle

The EU's Finance Ministers have backed measures that will reinforce the protection of the euro and other currencies through criminal law measures. The directive is expected to enter into force in June 2014. 

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner responsible for Justice during Vice-President Viviane Reding's electoral leave said: "These new measures will help protect one of our most valuable assets: the euro. Citizens and businesses must be able to trust that the money they have in their pockets is authentic. And criminals seeking to undermine the strength of the euro must be duly punished. Today's endorsement marks a strong resolve to protect our currency for honest businesses and citizens and sends a stark warning to criminals."

Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner responsible for Taxation, Customs, Statistics, Audit and Anti-Fraud, said:"These new rules against euro-counterfeiting will boost confidence in our common currency, and help to protect honest businesses and citizens from ending up with fake money in their pockets. While the final text has less bite than the Commission would have liked, it is nonetheless an important advance on where we stand today. The euro is better protected against criminals, thanks to this new law adopted today."

Since the euro was introduced in 2002, counterfeiting is estimated to have cost the EU at least €500 million. Recent figures published by the European Commission show that a total of 175 900 fake euro coins were withdrawn from circulation last year. According to the latest figures from the European Central Bank, 353 000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn in the second half of 2013.

The measures proposed by the Commission will bring about the following changes:

  • The directive will set the lower limit for maximum penalties in Member States: maximum sanctions must be at least eight years for production and at least five years for distribution of fake notes and coins.

  • It will also ensure investigative tools for organised crime or serious cases provided for in national law can be used in cases of counterfeiting, thus improving the quality of cross-border investigation in this field.

  • Analysing seized forgeries will be possible earlier during judicial proceedings, which will improve detection of counterfeit euros and prevent their circulation.

Next steps: Following the political agreement with the Council in the trilogue meeting (MEMO 14/123), the vote in the European on 16 April supporting the directive (MEMO/14/303) and yesterdays' backing by the Council, the directive is due to be signed by the President of the Council on 13 May 2014 and the President of the European Parliament on 15 May 2014. After publication of the directive in the Official Journal, which is expected in June 2014, Member States will have two years to transpose the new rules into national law.

For more information

Frequently Asked Questions: MEMO/14/334

Homepage of Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta:

Homepage of Commissioner Johannes Hahn who has taken interim responsibility for the justice portfolio until 26 May 2014:

Follow Commissioner Šemeta on Twitter: @ASemetaEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice

Follow Commissioner Hahn on Twitter; @JHahnEU


European Commission – criminal law policy:

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