The European Union released its first-ever "blacklist" of global tax havens this week, including 17 territories, three of which are Arab countries.

Deemed to fall short of EU tax standards, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, and Bahrain joined American Samoa, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macao, The Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, St Lucia, Samoa, and Trinidad & Tobago on the list. 

According to the EU, the blacklisted countries are not doing nearly enough to deal with offshore tax evasion. EU leaders said the list, which took months to compile, is a step forward in combatting such problems.

"Blacklisted jurisdictions must face consequences in the form of dissuasive sanctions, while those that have made commitments must follow up on them quickly and credibly," Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs, said, according to Al Jazeera.

Countries included in the blacklist will be subject to restrictions from investments from the European Investment Bank and from receiving EU funding. Individual EU states will also be allowed to implement their own sanctions and restrictions as they see fit.

In addition to the blacklist, a "gray list" and a "watch list" were also released, highlighting countries, which while more compliant than others, still raised concerns when compared to EU standards. 

Graylisted countries, including Morocco and Qatar, were deemed to comply somewhat better with EU standards than those on the blacklist, but will still be monitored and pressured to improve. Watchlist nations are those that have already made significant progress or promises to change their policies. 

Three main criteria were used to create the lists: fair tax competition, tax transparency, and implementation of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting - a way of fighting tax avoidance created by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Many opponents of offshore tax havens see the lists as a positive step, however, they have also raised concerns.

"Although we recognize this is a step in the right direction, if EU leaders let too many tax havens off the hook we'll all lose out. A place on the gray list must not mean tax havens get off scot-free," Oli Pearce, inequality and tax policy advisor for UK-based charity Oxfam, told the BBC.

While several Arab nations have been included on the lists, numerous American and British territories are targeted as well.

Tax campaigner Richard Murphy sees the list as a strong message to the UK, especially in the midst of ongoing Brexit negotiations.

"The EU is also saying to the UK that it is taking real measures against British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, and the message is - if you go the same way as them with a similar low-tax regime after Brexit, you'll be sanctioned too," Murphy said.