France urges EU partners to rapidly adopt measures to halt financing of extremists

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France urged its European Union partners on Tuesday to speed up efforts to cut off funds to extremists groups, nearly a month after the Paris attacks.

"We have to go faster, but also further, stronger," French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters after talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels.

Based in part on a list of measures suggested by France, the ministers discussed ways to better track financial transfers, control prepaid bank cards, freeze assets and limit movements of cash and precious metals.

But no firm decisions were taken, and the EU's executive Commission was tasked with drawing up a list of priorities for their next meeting in January.

The Nov. 13 attacks in the French capital, in which 130 people were killed and hundreds injured, have highlighted the need for new finance tracking measures.

But Sapin warned that "the dates for adopting these measures are far away. Terrorists are there, so we must act more quickly."

Some steps were announced after the attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris in January, and the shootings at a free speech debate in Copenhagen the following month, but more are being floated.

France wants to bolster the powers of financial intelligence teams that analyze suspicious transactions, and to work with the U.S. on "terrorist financing."

It is calling for a system for freezing assets to be broadened from bank accounts to property, vehicles and any benefits that suspects might receive.

It also wants tighter controls and improved transparency on the use of virtual currencies or electronic money forms like pre-paid cards, which allow small amounts to be sent anonymously.

Paris is also calling for more border checks on the transfer of cash, gold, precious metals and pre-paid cards by freight, particularly air freight, as a customs declaration is only required if the amounts exceed 10,000 euros ($10,860).

The measures would include a crackdown on the illicit trade in cultural goods amid fears that extremists are selling or smuggling artefacts looted from archeological sites or museums.

The culture ministers of Germany, France and Italy added to pressure for action to curb the use of looted art as a source of extremist financing.

In a letter, they called on the Commission to quickly draw up rules to better control the flow of illegally exported cultural goods.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that new laws can't come soon enough.

"We need them quite quickly, and we need to try and speed up the implementation process," he said.


Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.