ECONOMY

Balkan central banks join forces to boost cooperation and beat money laundering

The central banks of six Balkan countries and Cyprus yesterday agreed in Athens upon a framework of regional cooperation to improve banking supervision, streamline operations and help fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism. «The framework will improve cooperation and enable regulatory authorities (in the region) to deal more efficiently with banking institutions that are becoming increasingly complex,» Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas told a news conference. «It will also help to alleviate the administrative burden on banks stemming from regulatory and reporting requirements,» he said. The central bank governors of Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia agreed on the framework terms, as did the representative of the Romanian central bank. The governors agreed to set up contacts among their respective supervisory authorities and to establish working groups to explore closer regulatory practices, including those tackling crime. «This agreement will help both banks and supervisory authorities to do their jobs better,» Central Bank of Cyprus Governor Athanassios Orphanides told reporters. Turkey has expressed interest in joining the talks and an invitation will be extended to Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina to attend the next meeting in the northern port of Thessaloniki in 2008, Garganas said. The banking sector in the Balkans has been drastically redrafted in recent years, mainly due to the inroads made by Greek banks into neighboring markets. Greek banks control over 25 percent of the Bulgarian banking system and 16 percent of banking capital in Romania, the respective governors said. (AFP)