EU plans new measures against terrorism financing by February

The European Commission will announce new measures in February to tackle terrorism financing

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The European Commission will announce new measures in February to tackle terrorism financing, EU officials said, as part of wider efforts to prevent new attacks in Europe after the Nov. 13 shootings and bombings in Paris that killed 130 people.

France, which has championed the security clampdown, has called for strict limits on the use of prepaid payment cards which, according to French investigators, were used to fund the Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

“We aim to present an action plan setting out a series of measures, including legislative ones, ahead of the next Ecofin meeting in February,” Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis told a news conference on Friday at the end of a meeting of EU finance ministers, known as Ecofin.

The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12. EU member governments must approve the Commission measures for them to take effect.

“In February we can take decisive next steps on the issue of fighting the financing of terrorism,” the head of the EU finance ministers group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said.

He added that some measures might be applied more rapidly, such as the freezing of assets of suspected militants.

An EU official said that prepaid cards were among the means of payment under scrutiny together with virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, and several others that allow anonymous transactions.

Prepaid cards are issued by a wide range of operators including major market actors such as Visa and Mastercard. They are different from debit and credit cards because they need to be loaded before payments can be made, but can carry substantial amounts of money.

A successful crackdown on this means of payment would imply close coordination with non-EU countries, the EU official said.

A French plan calls for caps on amounts that can be loaded on prepaid cards and curbs on the conversion of virtual currencies into legal currencies.

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