Europe has driven significant progress on beneficial ownership transparency over the past decade and more. Within the EU, beneficial ownership (BO) information was recognised within successive anti-money laundering directives as essential information to prevent and combat financial crime, and Member States were required to establish central registers of the beneficial owners of companies and trusts. Under the 2018 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, EU Member States were required to make their registers of company beneficial ownership publicly accessible, but following a ruling by the EU Court of Justice in 2022 this provision was deemed invalid. However, beneficial ownership transparency remains high on the agenda across the EU with an updated draft Directive setting out how civil society, journalists and other groups must still be able to access beneficial ownership registers under a legitimate interest requirement.

The EU remains the global region furthest advanced with the implementation of central beneficial ownership registers, however progress has been driven by EU Member States, and others including the UK and Ukraine. Open Ownership has worked with governments in EU Member States to advance the implementation of reforms, including Latvia and Slovakia, and has provided advice and technical expertise to early movers to implement registers, including Ukraine and the UK, the first two countries in the world to implement public BO registers. We have also provided sustained technical assistance to countries including Ukraine to establish and then improve their beneficial ownership registers. We engage regionally with actors across government, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to provide technical expertise and evidence to shape the future trajectory of reforms within and beyond the European region.

Countries in the region