Monday

16th May 2022

Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'

  • Terrorism was almost the only reason for which EU nationals have been listed in the past (Photo: johnnyalive)

Buying an EU passport does not give you impunity from visa-bans or asset-freezes, officials have said, as citizenship sales multiply.

Terrorism, rather than politics, was almost the only reason for which EU nationals were blacklisted in the past, however.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"In the case of travel bans, it means that the person cannot travel to a country other than the one of his nationality (as s/he cannot be refused entry on the territory of the country of his/her nationality)," an EU official told EUobserver.

"If a European citizen is subject to restrictive measures such as an asset-freeze, then the blocking of bank accounts and other assets should be ensured by all the 27 EU member states," the official added.

"They should also make sure that economic resources are not made available to entities controlled by listed persons," the official said.

The net result was that if a Russian man, for instance, bought a Cypriot passport and then fell under EU sanctions, he would be allowed to go in and out of Cyprus, but not the rest of the EU.

And Cyprus would still be obliged to freeze his money or to stop it going to his relatives or companies.

The clarification came after the Al Jazeera news agency recently reported that Cyprus had sold hundreds of passports to 'politically exposed' persons from Russia and the Middle East.

Malta has also been selling passports en masse to Russian tycoons.

And Valletta's authorities recorded a spike in Russian applications after 2014 - when the EU first began blacklisting Russians due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the number of EU sanctions is likely to proliferate in future, after the bloc recently agreed a new regime for cyber criminals and abusers of chemical weapons.

It is also in talks on listing egregious human rights abusers worldwide.

The EU system was already tested in one well-known case in 2011 in Cyprus.

Cyprus had sold EU nationality to Rami Makhlouf, a Syrian oligarch in January of that year. Just two months later, the EU blacklisted him over Syrian regime atrocities.

Cyprus did not disclose if it froze Makhlouf's assets, but Nicosia revoked his citizenship in 2012.

Meanwhile, EU officials noted that member states already had experience of imposing sanctions on EU nationals under the bloc's counter-terrorism register.

A scroll through the EU database showed it had listed nine French nationals, six Germans, and one Swede on grounds of membership in extremist Islamist groups.

It also listed 10 British nationals at a time when the UK was still part of the EU.

Stymied on 'golden passports', EU sets up expert group

The European Commission has described the sale of EU citizenship by Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta as a "golden gate to Europe" for the rich. Unable to stop it, the commission now wants an expert group to probe the schemes.

Hungary turned into 'hybrid regime', MEPs say

The new draft European Parliament report is an update to the 2018 report which triggered the Article 7 procedure against Hungary, a sanctions probe aiming to rein in member states that break EU rules and values.

News in Brief

  1. German ruling party in regional election blow
  2. EU expanding arms-for-Ukraine programme
  3. Reports: EU drafts plans for Russia energy payments
  4. Pro-Russian hackers targeted Eurovision
  5. EU to donate extra €400m for Africa vaccines rollout
  6. Spain plans five-days 'menstrual leave' and to ease abortion rules
  7. MEPs reject proposal for stricter 2030 target on cars and vans
  8. Study: EU spent €341m on AI border technology

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  3. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  4. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersHuge support for Ukraine
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBWorkers want EC to limit subcontracting chains in construction

Latest News

  1. Sweden to join Finland in applying for Nato
  2. Russia sanctions and energy dominate Next WEEK
  3. Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?
  4. EU reaches deal on flagship cybersecurity law
  5. EU to help Ukraine export grain — amid food shortages fears
  6. Revealed: Big Oil shaped EU's gas-cutting strategy
  7. EU: Ukrainians hesitating to register for protection
  8. UK says 'no choice but to act' over post-Brexit trade rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us