The European Banking Federation (EBF), the voice of the European banking sector, is closely monitoring and working to address regulatory and financial topics related to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
facilitating access bank accounts
The EBF strongly and actively supports the efforts made by the European Commission and the European Banking Authority (EBA) to facilitate the opening of basic bank accounts by refugees under the exceptional circumstances of the war in Ukraine. Refugees have legitimate reasons for being unable to provide traditional forms of ID that are used under normal circumstances for onboarding and verification of the customer’s identity. Referring to its Opinion of 12 April 2016, the EBA has confirmed that simplified onboarding procedures can be applied. The EBF is collecting information on domestic procedures to help EBA publish best practices and provide further clarification on simplified procedures. The EBF has also called on the Commission to adopt a temporary safe harbor from strict tax requirements.
Waiving payment transfers fees
The EBF has encouraged its members’ banks to consider, on an individual and on a voluntary basis to suspend, or materially reduce, transaction fees on transfers to Ukraine and Moldova. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the EBF has been working with its members to support EU institutions' responses to this crisis and facilitate humanitarian support. In this context, several banks have decided to temporarily alleviate or suspend transaction fees for transfers to Ukraine and Moldova.
Human trafficking prevention
As the number of refugees rises, so does the number of vulnerable people at risk for human trafficking. The EBF will be leveraging the network of banks’ branches across Europe to alert refugees to risks of human trafficking or money mulling. A leaflet with tips aimed at prevention but also emergency contacts will be distributed to refugees in the Ukrainian langue as they visit banks to open accounts. The EBF will be further raising awareness on the role and possibilities of the financial sector to contribute to the fight against modern slavery and trafficking and help financial institutions access practical tools to use in this effort in cooperation with partners such as the Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAST) Initiative.
Cyber risk awareness
The EBF is closely monitoring the possible impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the cyber domain on financial institutions and their customers. Building on the “CyberScams” awareness-raising campaign that EBF has created together with its EU institutional partners, Europol EC3 and ENISA, the Federation along with its member associations and banks have been actively promoting awareness of cyber risks through social media posts, aiming to keep bank customers and the broader public alert, by providing information on the most common scams that malicious actors can use to benefit from the current situation.
European banks recognise their pivotal role in ensuring the effective implementation of sanctions on Russia. The EBF is engaged in an active dialogue with EU policymakers to ensure the correct implementation of the imposed sanctions. Through constant monitoring and thorough analysis of the sanctions packages introduced following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EBF aims to identify grey areas and potential implementation challenges and communicates them to the European Commission. The Federation has sent a set of priority questions that warrant additional guidance to avoid fragmentation and any potential weak links to be exploited by sanctioned individuals and entities. We continue monitoring the developments surrounding sanctions implementation and work together with EU authorities to foster an environment of clarity and legal certainty.
Exchange of Ukrainian hryvnia
European banks are aware of the great difficulties of people fleeing Ukraine with the Ukrainian hryvnia banknotes in converting their cash into euros and other currencies. Banks and other actors are generally unable to provide conversion services as the underlying foreign exchange market for the Ukrainian hryvnia has practically ceased to exist. This issue needs to be urgently addressed so that Ukrainian refugees can convert their cash at hand. An intervention by the EU authorities is needed to provide a mechanism for the conversion, and the EBF has addressed an urgent request to the European Commission, Member States and the European Central Bank to act on this.