The European Commission put forward a series of measures designed to further strengthen the EU’s framework to fight against money laundering and terrorist financing:
- An Action Plan for a Comprehensive EU policy on Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing
- A refined and more transparent methodology to identify high-risk third countries
- An updated list of high-risk third countries
To ensure inclusive discussions on the development of these policies, the Commission launched a public consultation today on the Action Plan. Authorities, stakeholders and citizens will have until 29 July to provide their feedback.
Action Plan for a Comprehensive EU policy on Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing
Why is the Commission adopting this Action Plan now?
While current EU rules are far-reaching, and even go beyond international standards, they are not applied in a fully coherent manner across the EU. This leads to fragmentation between Member States. The challenge lies not only with specific pieces of legislation but with how these rules are implemented effectively across the EU. There is a clear need to tackle this lack of coherence and ensure a more harmonised implementation of the rules across the EU.The recent increase in criminal activities in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that criminals will exploit all possible avenues to pursue their illicit activities to the detriment of society. The EU needs to be equally determined in ensuring that they do not benefit from the proceeds of these crimes.
In July 2019, the Commission adopted an Anti-Money Laundering Communication, which highlighted a number of measures that could be taken to remedy the weaknesses in the EU’s current anti-money laundering rules.
Following this, the European Parliament and the Council invited the Commission to investigate what steps could be taken to achieve a more harmonised set of rules across the EU, including better supervision at an EU level and improved coordination among Member States’ Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
Today’s Action Plan is the Commission’s reply to these calls and is a first step towards a new, comprehensive framework to fight money laundering and terrorist financing in the EU.
How is the EU going to stop money laundering and terrorist financing?
Money laundering is a difficult crime to detect. Its consequences can have a severe impact on the EU’s economy and on its financial system. Therefore, the EU needs to have a multi-faceted approach to properly tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. Action is needed on several levels.
This is why the Commission has today put forward a series of measures aimed at closing any loopholes or weak links in the EU’s anti-money laundering rules.
Today’s Action Plan is built on six pillars, each of which is aimed at improving the EU’s overall fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as strengthening the EU’s global role in this area. When combined, these six pillars will ensure that EU rules are more harmonised and therefore more effective. The rules will be better supervised and there will be better coordination between Member States’ authorities.
The six pillars are as follows:
Effective application of EU rules: the Commission will continue to monitor closely the implementation of EU rules by Member States to ensure that the national rules are in line with the highest possible standards. In parallel, today’s Action Plan encourages the European Banking Authority (EBA) to make full use of its new powers to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.
A single EU rulebook: while current EU rules are far-reaching and effective, Member States tend to apply them in a wide variety of different manners. Diverging interpretations of the rules therefore lead to loopholes in our system, which can be exploited by criminals. To combat this, the Commission will propose a more harmonised set of rules in the first quarter of 2021.
EU-level supervision: currently it is up to each Member State to individually supervise EU rules in this area and as a result, gaps can develop in how the rules are supervised. In the first quarter of 2021, the Commission will propose to set up an EU-level supervisor.
A coordination and support mechanism for Member States’ Financial Intelligence Units:Financial Intelligence Units in Member States play a critical role in identifying transactions and activities that could be linked to criminal activities. In the first quarter of 2021, the Commission will propose to establish an EU mechanism to help further coordinate and support the work of these units.
Enforcing EU-level criminal law provisions and information exchange: Judicial and police cooperation, on the basis of EU instruments and institutional arrangements, is essential to ensure the proper exchange of information.The private sector can also play a role in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. The Commission will issue guidance on the role of public-private partnerships to clarify and enhance data sharing.
The EU’s global role: the EU is actively involved within the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and on the world stage in shaping international standards in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. We are determined to step up our efforts so that we act as a single global actor in this area. In particular, the EU will adjust its approach to third countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes that pose significant threats to our Single Market. The new methodology issued alongside this Action Plan today provides the EU with the necessary tools to do so. Pending the entry into force of this revised methodology, today’s updated EU list ensures better alignment with the latest FATF (Financial Action Task Force) list.
What about the effective implementation of current EU rules?
The Commission closely monitors the implementation of all EU rules in its Member States. For example, infringement proceedings were opened in February 2020 against all those Member States that failed to notify transposition of the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive.
In parallel, we continue to verify that Member States have fully and correctly transposed the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The Commission has also started checking how Member States are implementing this Directive in practice. This is done in the context of the European Semester cycle. The Commission has also contracted a study by the Council of Europe, which has extensive experience in such checks. This study will feed into the report on effectiveness that the Commission is required to submit by 2022 under the Anti-Money Laundering Directive.
The Commission expects the European Banking Authority (EBA) to use its new powers to improve the effectiveness of supervisory action in the financial sector by conducting on-site examinations to assess AML framework across the EU.
Will this Action Plan lead to a new Regulation? What rules will be harmonised in the future?
This will be subject to a thorough analysis to ensure that we reach as high a level of harmonisation as possible. Current EU rules do function but Member States tend to apply them in a wide variety of different manners. Diverging interpretations of EU law therefore lead to loopholes in our system, which can be exploited by criminals. To combat this, the Commission will propose a more harmonised set of rules in the first quarter of 2021.
A number of areas where divergence should be minimised were highlighted, namely the list of obliged entities, customer due diligence requirements, internal controls, and reporting obligations.
Is current supervision sufficient or should an Agency at EU level be created?
Following recent EU reforms, the European Banking Authority (EBA) has been empowered to act quickly and decisively in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. It is now equipped with concrete tools to ensure the exchange of information between anti-money laundering and financial supervisors.
The latest amendments of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive also give national authorities more powers to act where banks, or financial and non-financial entities, breach their anti-money laundering obligations. These amendments also improve the exchange of information between authorities.
Nevertheless, as outlined in a Commission Report on the assessment of recent alleged money laundering cases, some structural weaknesses in the EU’s anti-money laundering framework persist, even after all the new measures have been fully implemented.
These weaknesses may endanger the security and reputation of the EU’s financial system. Therefore, it is essential that the EU’s anti-money laundering rules can also be supervised at an EU level.
The role and scope of this EU-level supervision – as well as the supervisory body that should be tasked with carrying out this role – will be proposed following a thorough assessment of all options, also based on the feedback we will receive in the open public consultation launched today.
The EU-level supervisor will be established as part of a comprehensive new policy to fight money laundering and terrorist financing. The Commission has set the political objective to achieve this within this mandate, and we count on the support of the European Parliament and the Council to ensure that the legislative work will progress as swiftly as possible.
Will all operators be supervised by this EU-level supervisor?
This matter will be thoroughly analysed. As the Action Plan notes, there are several options regarding the scope of EU-level supervision, ranging from a narrow to a broad scope. Each of these options has pros and cons, and the Commission’s proposal will be based on a careful assessment of all options, also based on the feedback we will receive in the open public consultation launched today, ensuring that the future supervisory framework is of the highest quality and leaves no weak links nor loopholes in the system.
What about the national Financial Intelligence Units (FIU)?
Financial Intelligence Units(FIUs)in Member States play an important role in identifying transactions and activities that could be linked to criminal activities. However, several technical difficulties in the functioning of the secure communication channels (FIU.net) have created difficulties.
Several Financial Intelligence Units fail to comply with their obligation to exchange information with other Financial Intelligence Units. In addition, some Financial Intelligence Units have not managed to engage in a meaningful dialogue by giving quality feedback to private entities, as required by the Anti-Money laundering Directive. The Action Plan sets the ground for the creation of an EU support and coordination mechanism for these Units.
The aim of this mechanism is to remedy the weaknesses that were identified in how Financial Intelligence Units work. This support and coordination mechanism would support cross-border cooperation and analysis. It would also streamline how information is exchanged between Member States’ FIUs and the FIUs of third countries. Finally, this support mechanism will operate as the host and as a secure communication channel for the FIU.net.
The private sector can play a critical role in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. What will the Commission do to support its involvement?
Private operators are the gatekeepers of our financial system and our economy. They are the first ones to detect whether a transaction or activity might be suspicious. With their day-to-day experience, they can certainly contribute to fighting money launderers and those who fund terrorist activities.
The Commission fully recognises the benefits of the public and the private sector working together in this area. At the same time, it is important that these partnerships develop in a sound manner. To this end, the Commission will issue guidance, including sharing of good practices, and will consider whether to request the opinion of the European Data Protection Board in this work.
Will the list of private operators subject to anti-money laundering/terrorist financing requirements be expanded?
We will analyse whether the current scope of operators subject to these rules is adequate. Recent reviews of international standards suggest that, as a minimum, virtual asset service providers should be requested to comply withthe relevant rules.
This is also an area where we can learn from Member States’ experiences. Some countries have expanded the list of professionals subject to these rules to include, for example, crowdfunding platforms. All these examples should be analysed, also based on the feedback we will receive in the open public consultation launched today, to arrive at a harmonised list of obliged entities.
New methodology for identifying high-risk third countries
Why do you need a new methodology to identify high-risk third countries?
Identifying and tackling money-laundering activities is a moving target. Criminal techniques develop fast and take into account the latest technological developments. The new methodology aims at tackling these issues and updating our capacity to successfully identify high-risk third countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes that pose significant threats to our Single Market.
In addition, under the Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD), the Commission has a legal obligation to identify high-risk third countries with strategic deficiencies in their legal systems regarding money laundering and terrorist financing. This is to ensure that enhanced due diligence measures are applied, for example, by relevant EU businesses when carrying out financial transactions involving those third countries.
The 5th AMLD, adopted in July 2018, further strengthened the criteria for the identification of high-risk third countries, going beyond the criteria of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in particular as regards beneficial ownership information.
The Council objected to the list presented by the Commission on 13 February 2019. The Commission has worked within that legal framework to address concerns expressed by the Council as regards the transparency of the process and the need to incentivise third countries and respect their right to be heard.
The key new elements of today’s refined methodology for identifying high-risk third countries concern: (i) the interaction between the EU and FATF listing process; (ii) an enhanced engagement with third countries subject to the autonomous assessment; and (iii) reinforced consultation of Member States experts. The European Parliament and the Council will have access to all relevant information at the different stages of the procedures, subject to appropriate handling requirements.
What are the criteria used for listing a third country at EU level?
The 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) sets out the technical criteria for identifying high-risk third countries. These requirements have been revised by the 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive in order to provide even more robust criteria.
Under the AMLD, the Commission takes into account strategic deficiencies of those countries, in particular in relation to the legal and institutional AML/CFT (anti-money laundering / countering the financing of terrorism) framework such as:
o criminalisation of money laundering and terrorist financing,
o customer due diligence and record keeping requirements,
o reporting of suspicious transactions,
o the availability and exchange of information on beneficial ownership of legal persons and legal arrangements;
o the powers and procedures of competent authorities;
o their practice in international cooperation;
o the existence of dissuasive, proportionate and effective sanctions.
As a general requirement, the effectiveness in applying those AML/CFT safeguards will be considered. When carrying out its assessment, the Commission considers relevant evaluations, assessments or reports drawn up by relevant international organisations and standard setters – in particular those issued by FATF – as well as other information sources.
Once the new methodology is in place, who will be consulted?
Member State experts will be consulted at every stage of the process regarding the assessments of third country regimes, the definition of mitigating measures, third countries’ implementation of “EU Benchmarks” and the preparation of the Delegated Regulation. This consultation will include specific Member State competent authorities (law enforcement, intelligence services, Financial Intelligence Units). The European Parliament will be fully involved in those consultations.
The Commission is committed to ensuring appropriate reporting to the European Parliament. Both the European Parliament and the Council will have access to all relevant information at the different stages of the procedures, subject to appropriate handling requirements.
How often will the list be updated?
The EU list will be updated one month following the publication of an updated FATF list, which the Commission considers as a baseline. In addition, the Commission will identify further third countries based on its own autonomous assessment, after having engaged with those countries as set out in the refined methodology published today. The Commission will immediately identify those countries that refuse to take commitments to address their strategic deficiencies (“non-cooperative jurisdictions”) or those third countries that have an overriding level of risk. Third countries taking commitments to address concerns, as part of the Commission’s autonomous assessment, will benefit from a 12-month observation period. In case they do not implement those commitments within the agreed period, the Commission will proceed with a listing.
How does the FATF lists interact with the EU list?
Third countries listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will in principle also be listed by the EU. For countries de-listed by FATF, the Commission will assess whether the reasoning for de-listing is also sufficiently comprehensive from the EU’s point of view.
With regard to EU Accession countries, the Commission may develop other mitigating measures in the context of the accession negotiations that address the identified strategic deficiencies. Accession countries could take commitments that go beyond the FATF action plans. This will be closely monitored by the Commission. This option does not apply to third countries that are not in the process of acceding to the EU.
In specific circumstances – for example, if a third country has strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regime that pose a significant threat to the EU or if certain requirements related to beneficial ownership transparency are in question – certain EU requirements can “top up” the existing FATF Action Plan.
If a third country presents a risk and is not yet subject to the FATF procedure, the Commission or Member States should flag this in FATF before considering adding this country to the EU’s autonomous list.
What is the link between the AML listing process and the EU’s list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions?
The EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and the EU’s AML lists may overlap on some of the countries they feature, but they have different objectives, criteria, compilation processes and consequences. The EU’s tax list is a Council-led process, whereas the EU’s anti-money laundering (AML) list is established by the Commission based on EU anti-money laundering rules. The high-risk third country (AML) list aims to address risks to the EU’s financial system caused by third countries with deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regimes. On the basis of this list, banks must apply higher due diligence controls to financial flows involving those high risk third countries. The anti-money laundering list is compiled by the Commission. On the other hand, the common EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions addresses the external risks to Member States’ tax bases, posed by third countries that do not comply with international tax good governance standards. It is managed directly by the Member States, through the Code of Conduct Group, with the support of the Commission. The Code of Conduct Group decides which jurisdictions should be listed and makes a recommendation to EU Finance Ministers, who take the final decision. Nonetheless, the two lists complement each other in ensuring a double protection for the Single Market from external risks.
Why does the Commission not propose a “grey list” of countries being assessed?
Unlike the EU’s list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, the Anti-Money Laundering Directive only provides for one single list of “high risk third countries” based on identification of strategic deficiencies in the anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing regime in a given country. It does not provide for a “black list” or “grey list.” As a result, the Commission considers that such a “grey list” cannot be issued, as no firm conclusion would be reached on the existence of strategic deficiencies. The Commission will, however, ensure full transparency with the European Parliament and Council throughout the process of engaging, in cooperation with the European External Action Service, with third countries, so that the co-legislators can monitor progress in the implementation of this new methodology, including in the drafting of EU benchmarks and assessing their implementation within the given timeframe.
New EU list of high-risk third countries
Why is the Commission presenting a new list of high-risk third countries?
Criminals and terrorists are not sitting back during the Coronavirus pandemic. Europol has provided a recent assessment of new threats posed by criminal groups trying to take advantage of the pandemic.
The EU is committed to protecting the integrity of its financial system and preventing financial flows involving countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes. In line with the risk-based approach, banks and other obliged entities must apply enhanced due diligence in case of financial flows to/from high-risk third countries identified in the EU list.
As defined under the 4th and 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directives, the EU has to establish a list of high-risk third countries, to make sure that the EU’s financial system is equipped to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Commission issued the first such list in 2016, and updated it subsequently over the past years. Since the adoption of the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, the criteria by which a third country is assessed have been extended substantially, thereby requiring the Commission to carry out an autonomous assessment. This required an adaptation of the listing process based on a refined methodology. This also follows calls from the European Parliament to have an autonomous list. Today, the Commission has amended the list of high-risk third countries, via a Delegated Act, in order for it to be better aligned with the lists published by FATF. This update is necessary since the EU list has not reflected the latest FATF lists adopted since October 2018. Further updates will take place once the Commission has engaged with third countries subject to the EU’s autonomous assessments, according to the refined methodology published today.Given the Coronavirus crisis, the date of application of today’s Regulation listing third countries – and therefore applying new protective measures – only applies as of 1 October 2020. This is to ensure that all stakeholders have time to prepare appropriately. The delisting of countries, however, is not affected by this and will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal.
What countries have been added to the EU list?
The Commission took into account the latest lists issued by FATF. As a consequence, the Commission has listed 12 new countries on the EU list. Based on the FATF “Compliance documents”, the Commission considers that The Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama and Zimbabwe meet the criteria set out in article 9(2) of Directive (EU) 2015/849. Those countries have expressed a high-level political commitment to implement an action plan agreed with FATF to address their strategic deficiencies. We welcome those commitments and invite those jurisdictions to implement them swiftly.Given the Coronavirus crisis, the date of application of today’s Regulation listing third countries – and therefore applying new protective measures – only applies as of 1 October 2020.
What countries have been removed from the EU list?
Following progress made, the Commission has removed 6 countries from the EU list. The Commission’s review concluded that Bosnia-Herzegovina, Guyana, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia addressed their strategic deficiencies and should therefore be delisted.This decision will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal.
What is the situation of other countries recently delisted by FATF?
For those countries delisted by FATF since the adoption of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1675, the assessment by the Commission is still ongoing (i.e., Afghanistan, Iraq, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu).
Regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, the available information and the security situation in the countries did not allow the Commission to conclude, at this stage, whether they effectively addressed their strategic deficiencies. This is due in particular to the fact that those countries were delisted by FATF based on a former procedure that did not assess the effective application of AML/CFT measures. Effective application of AML/CFT measures is a criteria explicitly included in the requirements set out in the AML Directive.
Regarding Vanuatu and Trinidad and Tobago, the available information did not allow the Commission to conclude, at this stage, whether they addressed their strategic deficiencies, notably as regards the transparency of beneficial ownership, which is a specific requirement set in the AML Directive.
The Commission will review the anti-money laundering regime of those countries as a matter of priority and will engage with them as appropriate, based on the refined methodology.
What is the situation of Albania with regard to its AML/CFT regime?
The assessment of high-risk third countries is applicable to enlargement countries – which can be listed in case strategic deficiencies are identified. As set out in the methodology, the Commission can also address these issues in the framework of the accession process where the Candidate Countries are requested to fulfil a set of stringent criteria. Therefore, alternative mitigating measures can be put in place in such instances within the framework of other EU policies, as part of the enlargement policy.
In February 2020, Albania made a high-level political commitment to work with FATF and the Council of Europe to strengthen the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime. Similarly, the Commission developed additional mitigating measures that were put in place to address key concerns. Albania expressed a high-level political commitment towards the Commission to implement further mitigating measures, notably further aligning with the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive and putting in place registers of beneficial ownership. These commitments go beyond the action plan agreed with FATF. Therefore those mitigating measures are considered as appropriate to address risks posed to the EU financial system at this stage. This option does not apply to third countries that are not in the process of acceding to the EU.
What are the consequences of the listing for financial institutions?
Under to the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, banks and other financial institutions (“obliged entities”) have to apply extra checks (“enhanced customer due diligence requirements”) for transactions involving high-risk third countries identified on the list.
Customer due diligence corresponds to a series of checks and measures that a bank or an obliged entity has to use in case they have suspicions of high risk of money laundering or terrorist financing. Enhanced due diligence measures include extra checks and monitoring of those transactions by banks and obliged entities in order to prevent, detect and disrupt suspicious transactions.
The Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive clarifies the type of enhanced vigilance to be applied, which includes obtaining additional information on the customer and on the beneficial owner or obtaining the approval of senior management for establishing a business relationship.
The listing does not entail any type of sanctions, restrictions on trade relations or impediment to development aid but requires banks and obliged entities to apply enhanced vigilance measures on transactions involving these countries.
What are the consequences of the listing for the financial system?
According to the 4th AMLD, banks and other obliged entities are required to apply enhanced vigilance in transactions involving high-risk third countries (so called “enhanced customer due diligence requirements”). This is also in line with international obligations, where FATF already calls on its members to apply enhanced due diligence to high-risk jurisdictions. Those enhanced measures will lead to extra checks and monitoring of those transactions by banks and obliged entities in order to prevent, detect and disrupt suspicious transactions.
These measures do not entail any type of sanctions, restrictions trade relations or impediment to development aid but it aims to apply enhanced vigilance measures in those cases. In order to further clarify the type of enhanced vigilance to be applied, the 5th AMLD, adopted in June 2018, harmonises those enhanced measures.
What is the impact of the EU anti-money laundering list on EU-funded financial operations?
The listing process does not affect EU humanitarian assistance, EU development policy or the provision of grants, procurement and budget support.
The use of EU funded financial instruments and budgetary guarantees is subject to stricter provisions in relation to anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing. According to the EU’s Financial Regulation and the European Fund for Sustainable Development Regulation, there is a prohibition against “Implementing Partners” (such as International Financial Institutions or National Promotional and Development Banks) entering into new or renewed operations with entities established in countries on the EU’s list of high risk third countries, when carrying out financial operations supported by the EU budget.
There is however an exemption when the action is physically implemented in the third country in question (subject to the absence of other risk factors). That means that when an action is physically implemented in a listed jurisdiction (i.e. when the financial operation supported by the Union budget is implemented in a listed jurisdiction exclusively for the purpose of financing a project in that same jurisdiction), the Implementing Partner can still carry out financial operations with entities established in that jurisdiction with the support of the EU. Therefore, there should be no adverse effect with regard to actions physically implemented in listed jurisdictions.
Why will the new protective measures only apply as of 1 October 2020?
The very exceptional and unpredictable situation arising from the Coronavirus pandemic has a global impact and is leading to significant disruption for economies and national administrations around the world. Therefore, the date of application of today’s Regulation listing third countries – and therefore applying new protective measures – only applies as of 1 October 2020. This is to ensure that all stakeholders have time to prepare appropriately. The delisting of countries, however, is not affected by this and will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal.
Will there be any technical assistance available for the countries identified as high-risk third countries?
The EU is committed to providing technical assistance to the countries identified as high-risk third countries. The Commission is one of the world’s leading donors when it comes to providing targeted support to tackle anti-money laundering / countering terrorist financing. The Commission currently has a programme (€20 million) under the Global Facility (AML/CFT) to support countries in the world to monitor, disrupt and deny the financing of terrorism and money-laundering. The Commission aims at supporting more partners to address AML/CFT issues. This process is demand-driven – i.e. countries will have to define their needs and request technical assistance to improve their AML/CFT regimes in the framework of the external aid policy of the Commission.
What are the next steps?
The Delegated Regulation has now been transmitted to the European Parliament and to the Council for a 1-month scrutiny period (extendable by 1 more month). If there is no objection during this period, the Delegated Regulation will be published in the Official Journal in view of its entry into force. The Commission will re-initiate its reviews under the autonomous assessment and come up with, at an appropriate time, a new autonomous list. These assessments will be subject to consultation of Member States’ experts and appropriate engagement with third countries, in cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), as set in the refined methodology. The European Parliament and the Council will have access to all relevant information at the different stages of the procedures, subject to appropriate handling requirements. The Commission will continue to engage in FATF in order to ensure increased synergies between the EU and the FATF listing process.
Finally, as part of the planned review of AML/CFT rules at EU level, the Commission will conduct an impact assessment and propose legislative proposals in early 2021. Input from today’s open public consultation will feed into this impact assessment. The legislative proposals should ensure that risks posed by third countries are appropriately addressed.
The role of maritime power
The maritime environment is both a means of transport and a resource. The first aspect is obviously expressed through what is transported by ship: containers, oil, minerals, many objects and many resources of our daily life have passed through the sea before we use them. Data also crosses the sea, since submarine cables are the heart of the Internet, constituting the “real” face of the “virtual” world. For the second aspect, that of resources, it is either food, with mainly fishing, energy, fossil with oil and gas, or renewable with wind turbines and tide turbines, or minerals, starting from sand, whose exploitation is little known, but essential for many activities including construction.
It was from the fifteenth century, which corresponded to the beginning of the great discoveries, that the control of the seas became an important topic. At that time, the British Sir Walter Raleigh theorized its importance: “Whoever owns the sea holds the trade of the world; whoever holds the trade holds the wealth; whoever holds the wealth of the world owns the world itself ”. Gradually, the United Kingdom becomes the maritime superpower par excellence, supplanting a Spain and Portugal soon exhausted by the colonization of a South America too big for them and unable to compete with a France that is too terrestrial. At the end of the 19th century, Britain controlled major sea routes and her empire was vast, with the great outdoors of Australia and Canada and the British Indies.
But the entry into the twentieth century coincided with the arrival of a new actor in the oceans, the United States. The theorist in charge here is Alfred Mahan, who has updated Raleigh’s theory by specifying that control of the sea passes through that of sea routes and that in this matter everything is played at the level of the straits. The pivotal year in this sense is undoubtedly 1914: it corresponds to the inauguration of the Panama Canal, a maritime passage controlled by Uncle Sam, but also to the beginning of the First World War, which at the same time weakens the United Kingdom, due to of the energy spent in the conflict that does not compensate for territorial gains in Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific. The turning point that completes the transformation of the United States into the great maritime power of the second half of the 20th century is World War II. Europeans, including those belonging to the victorious camp, are too weakened to maintain their historical prerogatives, especially when colonial empires become complicated to maintain for political as well as demographic reasons.
The United States emerged from the war with a colossal military and merchant fleet (thanks, among other things, to the Liberty ships), and was able to reconstitute those of its new allies in the Western camp. Moreover, this aid does not prevent the Americans from making their own interests prevail over those of their allies, as with the Suez crisis where they countered the Franco-British intervention that had militarily managed to regain control of this strategic channel with diplomatic means. This domination of the seas was hardly contested by the Russians, reduced to an asymmetrical confrontation, symbolized by submarines. It is important to stress that Russia does not have direct access to the oceans, a resource of the United States.
In 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed, but a phantom threat already hovered over the almighty awakening of America, that of China. Under the impact of Deng Xiao Ping’s reforms, its economy was starting to become competitive and the country was using its huge pool of cheap labor to become “the factory of the world”. This economy is export-oriented and generates colossal shipping traffic, to which the Dragon is adding its touch: rapidly, Chinese shipping companies and shipbuilding are becoming key players in their respective sectors. From a military point of view, the Middle Kingdom had an almost insignificant navy in the late 1980s, but today it is second in the world behind the United States, even if the latter maintain a good advantage.
On land, the Chinese strategy consists first of all in controlling the space contained within a first chain of islands corresponding to the East China Sea and the South China Sea, even if in the latter it means not respecting the rights of other coastal states. or even intimidate Taiwan, the “rebel province”. The next step is to dominate the space within a second chain of islands located further offshore, which would put China in direct contact with US possessions, with the risk of confrontation that this entails. The so-called “pearl necklace” strategy, consisting in the development of Chinese infrastructures in the Indian Ocean, also connects the Middle Kingdom with another competitor, India, which wishes to assert its rights in this space that India considers its courtyard. Finally, China inaugurated its first overseas naval base in Djibouti in 2018, and others may follow in the years to come, such as Walvis Bay in Namibia. This expansion solidifies China’s rank as a world power, while Russia has lost most of its network of naval bases around the world with the collapse of the USSR.
The power of the sea is composite, made up of elements that multiply each other more than they add up. The first of these is access to the sea, without which nothing is possible. Therefore, the United Kingdom, an island country, is naturally predisposed to the projection of maritime power. The United States, bordered by two large maritime spaces, is also favored. For Russia, things are less obvious, as for China; in fact, the goal of the pearl necklace strategy is both to allow access to the sea from peripheral regions such as Xinjiang and to control sea routes. Moreover, in its time, Russia had tried to develop its access to the sea with “the race for warm seas”.
Once you have mastered access to the sea, it is necessary to be able to move, thanks to the sea routes and more particularly to the strategic passages. Today, the Americans retain control of it, although the Middle Kingdom tries to weave its web. For example, instead of wanting to get its hands on the Panama Canal, China is supporting a competing canal project in Nicaragua, even if the latter is stopped for the moment. Traffic also requires a merchant fleet, and China is among the champions of shipping and also shipbuilding, where Americans are largely left behind, held back by a protectionist Jones Act that maintains a significant merchant fleet, but marginalized in the globalization.
In general, where terrestrial space is largely controlled by our human societies, the sea escapes this phenomenon much more, to the point that it is still a space to be conquered in many ways. The polar regions, especially the icy Arctic Ocean, but also the seas surrounding the Antarctic continent, constitute a new frontier for humans. The seabed and its mineral resources are also often less known than terrestrial space.
Finally, one last consideration: the Italy – with the exception of the maritime republics – has not been able to exploit its projection of maritime power. And this is one of the reasons, certainly not the only one, that has prevented – and prevents – Italy from having a credible, authoritative foreign policy and above all capable of stopping Turkish hegemonic ambitions.
Indian Chronicle: Exposing the Indian Hybrid warfare against Pakistan
In recent years Indian hybrid warfare against Pakistan has intensified manifold to malign Pakistan Internationally through disinformation and propaganda tactics. Hybrid warfare has mainly been described as achieving war-like objectives with the help of fake news, disinformation, and propaganda. The Objectives of Hybrid warfare are mostly to secure long term victory against the opponent. Similarly, India has launched massive hybrid warfare against Pakistan, which was uncovered by EU DisinfoLab in its report called “Indian Chronicle”.
EU DisinfoLab is an independent organization working to expose and tackle disinformation campaigns targeting the European Union and its member states. The organization has claimed that the disinformation campaign against Pakistan has been active since 2005, “a massive online and offline 15-year ongoing influence operation supporting Indian interests and discrediting Pakistan internationally”.
In a recent investigation EU DisinfoLab has exposed a malicious Indian campaign against Pakistan. In the report, “Indian Chronicle” EU DisinfoLab has exposed the dubious use of media outlets, NGOs, and fake personnel by India to malign Pakistan. The disinformation campaign mainly targeted the United Nations and the European Union through more than 750 fake media outlets and 10 fake NGOs. According to the report, “uncovered an entire network of coordinated UN-accredited NGOs promoting Indian interests and criticizing Pakistan repeatedly. We could tie at least 10 of them directly to the Srivastava family, with several other dubious NGOs pushing the same messages.”
According to the report the disinformation campaign is supported by the Srivastava group. The Srivastava group has helped in “resurrected dead NGOs” to spread fake news. The report says that “Our investigation led to the finding of 10 UN-accredited NGOs directly controlled by the Srivastava Group, which our full report introduces at length. Their common trait? The fact that they all rose from the ashes of real NGOs. Indian Chronicles effectively benefited from the track record of these organizations while pursuing their agenda: discrediting Pakistan and promoting Indian interests at UN conferences and hearings,”.
Moreover, Asian News International (ANI), a major news agency in India has provided a platform for suck fake news campaigns. The aim of the Srivastava group and ANI media outlet is “to reinforce pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan (and anti-Chinese) feelings” in India, and “internationally, to consolidate the power and improve the perception of India, to damage the reputation of other countries and ultimately benefit from more support from international institutions such as the EU and the UN”.
The report claim that the organizations funded by the Srivastava group-sponsored trips for European Parliament members to Kashmir. “The organizations created by the Srivastava Group in Brussels organized trips for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir, Bangladesh, and the Maldives. Some of these trips led to much institutional controversy, as the delegations of MEPs were often presented as official EU delegations when they were in fact not traveling on behalf of the Parliament,”. Such sponsored trips aimed to build a positive image of India, while spreading disinformation about the alleged claims of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir.
Moreover, India has been actively involved in portraying Pakistan as a terrorist-sponsored state through its disinformation and fake news technique. For instance, India is lobbying strongly at FATF to put Pakistan on the blacklist.
India has also supported and sponsored Baloch separatist leaders and spread disinformation through their fake media outlets as mentioned in the EU DisinfoLab report.“These UN-accredited NGOs work in coordination with non-accredited think-tanks and minority-rights NGOs in Brussels and Geneva. Several of them – like the European Organization for Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), Baluchistan House, and the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) – were directly but opaquely created by the Srivastava group,”one of the examples is Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian spy who was captured in Pakistan.
The Indian Chronicle report has exposed the dubious face of India and the administrative structure of the United Nations and the European Union. Indian involvement in the spread of disinformation and resurrection of dead people and NGOs has exposed its long-standing for Human rights and democracy. Meanwhile, the reports have also exposed the administrative structure of the UN and EU, as they failed to notice the activities of fake UN-accredited NGOs and spread of disinformation through their affiliated NGOs.
Hybrid Warfare: Threats to Pakistani Security
‘Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war’-Giulio Douhet
Hybrid threats are becoming a norm in Pakistan and if we want to move forward in this age of technological advancements, cybercrimes, and the use of social media, we must have a wholesome response mechanism.
Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that employs not only conventional forms of warfare but irregular with it as well. It involves propaganda, cyber-attacks, state-sponsored terrorism, electoral intervention, and many more means of multi-dimensional approaches towards war which are used by militarized non-state actors. The term ‘Hybrid’ came into use around 2005-2006 due to the Israel-Hezbollah war (“Lessons from Lebanon: Hezbollah and Hybrid Wars – Foreign Policy Research Institute” 2016) and became a hot-topic in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea. Using non-confrontational means can lead to internal struggles and crumbling of the target. What direct force won’t get you can be easily achieved by infiltration and multi-faceted resources. It’s neither character of war nor its outcome that defines it as a hybrid war, but the changing tactics (“State and Non-State Hybrid Warfare” 2018). In a world where everyone, from wealthy states to those caught in throes of hunger, is armed to the teeth, there are ways to achieve socio-political objectives through the use of violent and non-violent non-state actors.
Pakistan – A Target
Pakistan has risen to incredible heights despite it being a relatively young nation and this is only proved further by the interest international players have in its internal workings. Several factors contribute to the important stature Pakistan holds in the international community such as the Pak-China alliance, its geostrategic location, military aptitude, Russian interests in the Indian Ocean, Deep Sea Gwadar Port (One Belt One Road Project), neighbor to Afghanistan (a country existing as a battleground for proxies), etc. All these reasons make sure to keep Pakistan on the radar.
Though it may be secure militarily, Pakistan is still vulnerable to hybrid threats due to internal dynamics, numerous conflicting interests of nations in state-affairs, and increasing non-state actors. South Asian nuclearization has all but guaranteed that a full-fledged war between Pakistan and India is unlikely therefore the latter uses hybrid warfare to weaken Pakistan from within.
Evolutionary Nature of War
There was truth to Heraclites’s words when he claimed that change is the only constant in our world. The social theory of evolutionary change tells us that individuals, communities, societies, and states are always in a state of motion, continuously evolving according to the era. War is born from man, it is only fair that if a man changes, so shall war. It has become more complex; the stakes have raised from territorial boundaries to the maintenance of world order and preservation of state sovereignty. Wars are no longer fought on the borders, skirmishes aside, the real destruction takes place within. Due to the paradigm shift after the Cold War (Ball 2018), there rose a need for legal, economical, socio-political, and informational means of warfare. It is used as a way to undermine other nation-states in pursuit of national power; the international system is not only a race but also a way to tear others down.
Threats to Pakistani Security
To secure Pakistan from all sides, we must first analyze the threats it faces from all sides. Conventional Warfare used to be seen as one dimensional and it only perceived assault to be done through the land, air, or sea channels. However, now it is fought in various intangible zones.
India is a budding regional hegemon due to its political and economic growth including hidden agendas. Pakistan is perceived to be a direct threat to India especially after the launch of the CPEC project, perceived to be undermining its hold over the region, which is why it is employing stratagems of hybrid warfare to internally weaken Pakistan. Till now India has used State-Sponsored terrorism, funded insurgencies, operated terror cells, and even sent fighter jets into Pakistani Airspace as an attempt to ruin its reputation in the international community.
There has been growing instability in Afghanistan which has led to mass migrations across the porous border into Pakistan, with around 1.4 million registered Afghans (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2018) and 1 million unregistered (“Amnesty International” 2019). India has its claws in Afghan matters as well and will use it to exploit Pakistan’s weaknesses even after US forces leave the arena. Afghan Government’s poor administrative capability especially after the return of DAESH (Tribune 2020) and Tehrik-e-Taliban Afghanistan are threats to Pakistan as well as regional peace and are a major cause of lawlessness in the country and has a spillover effect for its neighbors.
Ideologically speaking, Iran is a sectarian threat to Pakistan and its Port Chahbahar stands to lose active traffic once CPEC is fully functional which means it stands as an instigator of hybrid warfare and it would be a risk to overlook it based on past good relations.
Even after the Cold War, strategic rivalry and animosity between the powers including Russia, America, and China still exist. The emergence of China as an economic superpower is perceived as a threat to the US due to which there is a major shift in its defensive posture towards the region.
The US has shown significant interest in Pakistan due to its geo-strategic location but not all interest has yielded positive results. They carried out a surgical strike for the capture and assassination of Osama-Bin-Laden. Such a breach of sovereignty and security is a hybrid threat.
There are several lobbies in Pakistan all vying for their own cause. The Iranian lobby has sectarian undercurrents. Sectarianism has always been one of the leading factors of the divide in the Muslim civilization and is the rising trend of terrorism.Such conflict itself is volatile and is deepening the rift between different sects(Shia-Sunni) of Pakistan, causing unrest.
Rising prices of commodities such as flour and sugar can lead to social unrest and discord. Such industries and their stocks are under the thumb of a select few, the elites. With the right bribes and conditions, even they would agree to sell out society.
Non-state actors are groups or organizations that have influence in the state but work independently and have their socio-political agendas (“Towards a Typology of Non-State Actors in ‘Hybrid Warfare’: Proxy, Auxiliary, Surrogate and Affiliated Forces” 2019). They work on political opportunities and mobilized grievances. Groups like BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army), TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan), and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are some of the major actors. Pakistan needs to focus on curbing Jihadist Terrorism as it is keeping it from leaving the grey list of FATF.
It refers to the spread of miscommunication. Propaganda and circulation of false news through social media are a relatively common way to cause turmoil in a community. Once a rumor is circling, there is no way to erase it. India claims that Pakistan is spreading the false narrative of ‘Islam being in danger’ to justify its actions, although untrue, is something that the Indians fully believe now. That Pakistani Intelligentsia is made solely to create narratives under which to attack India. Such beliefs further antagonize the states against each other.
Indian Chronicles are a prime example of information warfare being waged against Pakistan.
Channels such as Cyber-Jihad and Dark Web come under the purview of cyber warfare and are a threat to the fabric of society and its security in Pakistan.
Given the above discussed bleak prevailing internal security situation, Pakistan needs to formulate a short to mid and long-term response that curbs all external and internal parties alongside proxies from infiltrating and influencing the working of the state and affecting the masses.
For a full-spectrum approach, all domains should be covered such as diplomacy, defense, internal and external security, economic, informational, cyber, and media security.
There are steps to be followed through for active and effective quelling of hybrid threats. First, a strategy must be put for, then tactical action should be taken and lastly, the implementation process should be supervised and fully followed through.
The main focus of the state should be on deterrence towards, protection from, and prevention of hybrid threats to the state.
One must not forget that Hybrid war is a mix of both unconventional and conventional warfare, therefore a nation-wide response should include the intertwined operational capabilities of armed forces alongside political actors. Pakistan sees its security being threatened both by internal factors and external hostile/proxy elements. This is hampering state development. State-building and nation-building must go hand in hand if counter and deter such threats effectively.
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