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President of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here with you today to address your Committee on the occasion of its fifteenth anniversary. I am also happy to welcome my compatriot and the President of the Financial Action Task Force, Mr Bjørn Skogstad Aamo, to the Council of Europe.
MONEYVAL has a great deal to celebrate.
I would therefore like to reflect on the Council of Europe's action in this field and the accomplishments of your committee since it was set up in 1997.
In 1980 the Council of Europe was the first international organisation to voice its concerns about organised crime and the spread of money laundering throughout the world. It called for the establishment of an overall policy and insisted on co-ordinated and strengthened action by member States to combat this phenomenon.
To effectively fight against these forms of crime, States need to be bound by common standards. They need to know what to expect of each other and to work on the basis of shared principles to guide their action. They have to join forces in order to be able to stop criminals. Effective mechanisms for information exchange and co-operation are crucial in this context. The 1990 Strasbourg Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime CETS has been widely ratified by all Council of Europe member states and Australia. This is a clear measure of its success.
MONEYVAL's establishment back in 1997 marked a crucial step forward in the international fight against money laundering. The 21 countries, which formed it at the time, agreed to be subjected to a peer to peer evaluation of the performance of their national systems.
Throughout the years, we have seen MONEYVAL become one of the most high profile and important monitoring mechanisms in Europe and we are very proud of its work.
This is why there was broad political support in the Committee of Ministers in 2010 to recognise its status as a permanent Council of Europe monitoring mechanism, with its own Statute, to report directly to the Committee of Ministers.
This is also why the Committee of Ministers responded positively to the requests of Israel, and more recently, to those of the Holy See and of the United Kingdom for the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man to be evaluated by MONEYVAL.
Today MONEYVAL counts 33 jurisdictions which adhere to its mutual evaluation processes, and I am pleased to see that all these jurisdictions are represented today in MONEYVAL.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today's celebration is an opportunity not only to look backwards, but to look forward.
We all know that there are new threats which must be faced, or perhaps old threats in new forms, new forms of money laundering methods and new forms of terrorism.
I also believe that at a time when the world continues to face the severe effects of the financial and economic crisis, criminals try to exploit the weakest links.
Council of Europe member States, and especially MONEYVAL's jurisdictions, cannot be their entry points.
Reliance on money of criminal origin to sustain an economy is not only wrong, it is shortsighted. It will inevitably undermine confidence in the financial system of the country, thus directly undermining its economic development.
It is also clear, not least from the financial crisis now affecting every country that our world is much more interdependent than most people had realised.
The Council of Europe standards have not remained static. They have been adapted to better address new issues of concern, based on MONEYVAL's experience. The Council of Europe Warsaw Convention of 2005 on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism and the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, also adopted in Warsaw in 2005, are living proof. At global level, the Financial Action Task Force has adopted revised standards in February of this year, which of course MONEYVAL has endorsed.
They are powerful tools. I would therefore urge all States to ratify these two important Conventions at the earliest possible date.
Reform of standards also requires that the authorities put them to good use. These standards are there to help your countries, your governments, your institutions, to organise their action and block the entry of criminal proceeds into the financial system.
There will always be challenges in adjusting national policies to respond to new threats. The effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering and terrorist financing is no easy task.
Austerity measures that are being put in place are likely to render this task even more difficult.
Only concerted vigilance and co-operation among states with a systematic exchange of information will offer any real hope of denying criminals their opportunities.
That is why I believe that MONEYVAL's mandate is as relevant today as the day it was born.
As Secretary General of the Council of Europe, my role is to ensure that we do everything we can to ensure that our standards and monitoring mechanisms, such as MONEYVAL, are effective and continue to make a difference in people's daily lives.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to conclude by congratulating you, the representatives of MONEYVAL, on the fifteenth anniversary of your committee. May the next fifteen years be as fruitful as the last.