Ireland misses out on bid to host new EU anti-money laundering agency

Frankfurt chosen to host headquarters that will bring at least 400 jobs

Ireland has missed out on a bid to host the European Union’s new anti-money-laundering agency (Amla) after a secret ballot of member states and European Parliament representatives swung in favour of Frankfurt as the location for the headquarters.

Dublin had been among nine cities vying to host the new agency, which would bring at least 400 jobs and is being established to enforce new anti-money laundering legislation led by Ireland’s commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

The Government had pledged €80 million towards setting up the agency and offered to cover rent for nine years at a headquarters in the Docklands, arguing it was high time for Ireland to be chosen to host another EU agency.

But Frankfurt won a majority of 28 out of 54 on Thursday after EU member states decided to back Germany’s bid. Paris, Madrid, and Rome had emerged as other favourites as the ballot drew near.


There was intense horse-trading ahead of the vote, with France and Germany lobbying hard for their cities, with the allocation of top EU jobs due after the European elections in June used as a bargaining chip.

Germany argued in its application that as the site of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt already had the foundations required to guarantee the agency’s success, and offered a headquarters 15 minutes from the airport and close to a metro stop.

Ireland’s hopes were dealt a significant blow when the European Parliament declined to include Dublin on its shortlist of favoured cities of Paris, Madrid, Rome and Frankfurt ahead of the vote. The parliament had 27 votes to allocate, divided among its political groups in proportion to their size.

In the vote, Frankfurt received 28 votes, Madrid 16, Paris 6, and Rome 4.

Parliament lead negotiator Eva Maria Poptcheva said Dublin had not made the final shortlist, but had been favoured by more than one political group so “received a good appreciation” and was “one of the good candidates”.

Commissioner McGuinness said the agency would soon start hiring staff and should be at least partly operational by 2025.

“In the morning we have a taskforce ready to go to set up the framework to allow Amla to begin its job,” she told reporters. “We want and need trust in the financial system.”

The two biggest political forces in the parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party linked to Fine Gael and the centre-left socialists, excluded Dublin from their own favoured shortlists in internal negotiations this week, making it difficult for Ireland to make the final cut.

The Irish Government had made its case for Dublin to host the headquarters in hearings in the European Parliament in January, arguing the city was well connected and welcoming, with a workforce of 100,000 people working in financial services already.

The candidate countries were told their applications would be judged on how soon the Amla agency could be up and running on site, the connectivity of the location, education facilities available for children of Amla staff, and access to jobs, social security and healthcare for their families.

Brussels, Riga, Vilnius and Vienna were also in the running for the agency, which will act to counter illicit financial flows of cash and the financing of terrorism.

The selection of the headquarters clears the way for the new anti-money laundering legislation to be finalised, and if all goes to plan the agency may begin hiring by the end of this year.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times