Friday

1st Jul 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.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us