The move to set new rules targeting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies follows in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Another factor in the reform was the release of the Panama and Paradise Papers, which detailed how some politicians and celebrities had funneled money to tax havens. In response, the EU vowed to clamp down on tax avoidance and money laundering.
While the proposal was set forth by the EU's executive branch, the European Commission, more than a year of negotiations were needed for the measures to be approved, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reports.
The measures also give increased access to information for national investigators, including national bank account registers. According to Reuters, access to data on the beneficiaries of trusts will be given to authorities and "persons who can demonstrate a legitimate interest".
"Today's agreement will bring more transparency to improve the prevention of money laundering and to cut off terrorist financing," the EU's Justice Commissioner said, according to DW.
Calling the deal a "breakthrough", the rights group Transparency International noted that some elements were still lacking in the measures.
"However, several loopholes remain, such as the lack of public access to information on the beneficiaries of trusts and similar arrangements. These loopholes should be addressed as EU Member States start to implement these revisions," Transparency International writes on their website.
The new rules now need to be formally adopted by the national parliaments and legislatures of all EU member states within 18 months. However, there are still some countries opposed to the moves, including Britain, Malta, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Ireland, DW reports Judith Sargentini, the lawmaker in charge of the issue, as saying.
Since the beginning of 2017, Bitcoin has surged over 1,700% in value, with an all-time high of over $18,000 in December. According to DW, while the increase in value has increased the legitimacy of the cryptocurrency, it has also stoked fears that the "bitcoin bubble" might soon burst.