Wolfgang Schaeuble.jpg
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
Photograph: EPA/LAURENT GILLIERON

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was due Friday to push for the introduction of an EU-wide upper limit to cash payments, at talks on efforts to curb terrorists' access to financing and crack down on corruption.

The relative ease of moving money across borders within the eurozone makes it harder for national authorities to track financial trails and restrict funding for suspicious activities. The issue took on new urgency after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

The European Commission has already proposed limiting the anonymous use of virtual currencies and pre-paid cards, but cash payments are the simplest way of transferring money anonymously.

The German government has floated plans to limit cash payments to 5,000 euros (5,565 dollars), meaning that any larger amount would have to be transferred electronically. France, which has already introduced an upper limit of 1,000 euros, is also on board.

"The first method of [terrorist] financing is cash," French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said ahead of the talks in Brussels with his 27 EU counterparts.

The debate has also turned to the question of banning the 500-euro banknote, which is the currency's largest denomination. The issue could prove controversial, as the use of cash varies from state to state.

"The 500-euro banknote is used more to dissimulate than to purchase, used more to facilitate transactions that are not honest than for you and me to buy food," Sapin noted.

But his Austrian counterpart Hans Joerg Schelling said he was in favour of keeping the 500-euro banknote, arguing that withdrawing it from circulation would make little difference.

"If you look at the normal situation in shops or petrol stations, nobody accepts it anyway for security reasons," he said.

Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said the issue should be discussed in the context of the fight on terrorism and corruption, noting that 500-euro notes make it "easier to pass by the laws."

The question will be put to the European Central Bank, said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency. It is the job of the Frankfurt-based bank to decide on currency denominations and circulation.

The ministers are due to discuss a broader package of measures to crack down on terrorist financing, proposed earlier this month by the European Commission. No decision is expected.

Latest news

Reports: 12 injured as car runs into crowd at New Orleans parade

Twelve people were injured Saturday in the US city of New Orleans when a car struck a crowd watching a parade, local media reported.

"Moonlight" big winner at independent film awards

The coming-of-age drama "Moonlight" won six prizes including best feature at the 32nd Film Independent Spirit Awards Saturday, claiming the Hollywood spotlight on the eve of the Oscars.

Trump: I won't attend White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

US President Donald Trump said Saturday that he does not plan to attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year.

US Democratic Party chooses Tom Perez to be next party chief

The US Democratic Party elected former labour secretary Tom Perez as its next party chief at a meeting in Atlanta on Saturday.

73-year-old man dies after car ramming in Germany

A 73-year-old male pedestrian died from his injuries after being run over when a car rammed into people in the south-western town of Heidelberg, police said Saturday.

Syrian government vows retribution for Homs attacks that killed 42

The Syrian government vowed retribution for synchronized attacks on Saturday in Homs City that left 42 security personnel dead and reportedly involved up to six suicide bombers.

Between 250,000 and 300,000 Croatians suffer from rare diseases

Rare Disease Day, observed on February 28, was marked in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg Square on Saturday.

German police shoot man who rammed car into pedestrians in Heidelberg

Police in Germany shot a man who rammed a car into pedestrians in the south-western town of Heidelberg on Saturday.

Egypt's al-Sissi orders cabinet to help Christians fleeing Sinai

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi ordered the government on Saturday to take all necessary measures to help Christians who escaped northern Sinai after the Islamic State militia killed at least six of them over the past month.

SDP MP calls on citizens to raise their voice against restriction of women's rights

Josko Klisovic, a Social Democrat member of the Croatian parliament, on Saturday called on all Croatians to raise their voice against a policy turnaround on women's rights after Croatia took a conservative position in a discussion on human rights in the Council of the European Union.

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's aide of 22 years

An Egyptian court on Saturday acquitted one of ousted president Hosny Mubarak's closest aides, ruling he was not guilty of corruption and illicit profits.

EU ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin under 24-hour police protection

EU Ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin and her family have been given 24-hour armed police protection due to threats she has been receiving lately, the Austrian paper Der Standard said on Saturday, explaining that the threats were linked to Vlahutin's monitoring of a reform of Albania's judiciary designed to curb corruption in that country.