Thursday

7th Jul 2022

Ban on golden passports seen gaining ground amid Russia war

  • Malta is one of the three EU countries that run an investment for citozeship programs that MEPs argue should be phased out (Photo: Neil Howard)
Listen to article

The European Parliament is expected to call for an EU-level ban on so-called golden passport programs by 2025, and to introduce stricter rules for golden visas, as scrutiny falls on member states where Russian oligarchs obtain EU residency or passports.

The schemes, under which non-EU nationals can get nationality and residency rights in exchange for financial investment, are "objectionable from an ethical, legal and economic point of view, and pose several serious security risks," says a report put together by Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

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

The report also finds that such schemes "pose several serious security risks for Union citizens," stemming from, among other factors, corruption and money-laundering.

In total some 12 EU countries have residency-for-investment programs, with different rules, little scrutiny or transparency and very little oversight from the EU authorities. Three member states give citizenship for investments: Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria.

Despite widespread queasiness over the schemes, the EU has so far been mostly ineffective against them since nationality and residency are competences belonging to member states.

"We have to be clear, the investor citizenship and residency schemes are designed for shady business, they are not designed for regular investments, and member states have been facilitating this," in 't Veld told EUobserver before lawmakers started to debate the report on Monday (7 March).

MEPs will vote on the report on Wednesday.

Bulgaria has already made proposals to scrap its scheme. Two years ago the EU commission began probing schemes in Cyprus and Malta. In the case of Cyprus, it is currently only processing applications submitted prior to November 2020.

But In 't Veld, the lawmaker, said the commission's efforts so far were only "half-hearted attempts" to tackle the issue that had included setting up a working group made up of member states that "did nothing."

Balls needed

"The commission should finally wake up and have the balls to put a proposal on the table, and not wait for the blessing of member states," in 't Veld said.

The lawmaker's report calls for the commission to act against such schemes by the end of the year or face a legal obligation to explain its reasoning.

In January, Portugal opened an inquiry into Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's successful bid to become a Portuguese citizen. The probe was triggered amid criticism that the law offering naturalisation to descendants of Sephardic Jews was being used by oligarchs to get a foothold in the EU.

At least 130,000 individuals have taken advantage of the investor citizenship and residency programs in the EU between 2011 and 2019, according to the European Parliament.

The schemes have generated around €21.8bn in revenue for the countries concerned.

In the wake of Russia's invasion, MEPs have added a new proposal that would ban all new applications from Russians immediately and that would require member states to reassess all decisions granting visas and citizenship under the schemes.

"We must ban the sale of EU passports and stop the flow of Russia's dirty money into the EU," centre-right Slovak MEP Vladimir Bilčík said in a statement.

Russian banks, oil refineries to face EU freeze

Russian banks and oil refineries to be hobbled by new EU sanctions, as civilian deaths mount in Ukraine. US wanted to exclude Russia from SWIFT, but Germany and France favoured incremental approach.

'Golden Passports': Malta takes 67 days to respond to EU

The European Commission exchanged 24 letters with Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta over their 'Golden Passports' schemes between October 2019 and October 2020. Malta took 67 days to respond to the commission's first letter, followed by Cyprus (42) then Bulgaria.

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. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

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. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us