Ireland faces battle to secure EU anti-money laundering agency

Intense horse-trading ahead of decision to allocate anti-money laundering agency that would bring 400 jobs

Ireland is set for a difficult battle to win the headquarters of a new European Union anti-money laundering agency that would bring 400 jobs to Dublin, faced with scepticism in the European Parliament and heavy lobbying by France and Germany.

The 27 EU member states and representatives of the parliament’s political groups vote together in a secret ballot on Thursday to choose which city should host the agency, known as Amla.

EU member states have one vote each, while the European Parliament has 27 votes distributed between its political groups according to their size.

Ireland’s hopes were delivered a blow in closed-door debates on Wednesday when MEPs of the powerful European People’s Party, of which Fine Gael is a member, chose not to include Dublin on their preferred shortlist of candidate cities, opting for Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris and Vilnius instead, The Irish Times understands.


In addition, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, the second-largest political group in parliament, are also understood not to have included Dublin in their preferred shortlist, favouring Madrid, Paris and Rome.

Much is uncertain with parliament negotiators set to try to agree a final joint shortlist of four favoured cities in advance of the vote on Thursday.

Dublin has been included on the favoured shortlist of Fianna Fáil’s liberal Renew, along with Madrid, Frankfurt and Paris.

As ballots are secret, the result can be unpredictable. However, being overlooked as a candidate by the two largest political groups in parliament diminishes the chances that Dublin can win enough votes.

There has been intense bargaining in advance of the vote, with France lobbying hard for Paris and Germany for Frankfurt, arguing that locating the agency near established institutions such as the European Central Bank would give it gravitas.

There is resentment however among smaller member states and those in central and eastern Europe about concentrating further EU agencies in the two largest western European member states, it is understood.

Some favour Madrid instead, while others argue that it is high time for a Baltic country to be allocated an EU agency, favouring fintech hub Lithuania’s bid to locate Amla in its capital Vilnius.

Complex horse-trading is taking place in the background, factoring in the coming reshuffle of all EU top jobs that is due this summer following the June European elections.

Nine cities in total including Brussels, Riga and Vienna are candidates to host the agency, which is to be established under incoming EU legislation to prevent money laundering led by Ireland’s European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

In its application, the Irish Government offered €80 million towards setting up the new agency and promised to cover annual rent of €5.6 million for nine years for a headquarters in Coopers Cross in the Docklands.

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Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times