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Bulgarian Parliament Backs Plans to Abolish Golden Passport Scheme

The Bulgarian National Assembly approved changes to the Bulgarian citizenship law, in order to abolish a scheme granting citizenship to third-country nationals in exchange for investments in the country.

With 218 votes in favour, Bulgarian lawmakers in first reading adopted amendments to the law during a meeting on Thursday, after the European Parliament called on Bulgaria and two other EU countries to end such schemes as soon as possible.

“The National Assembly in first reading adopted amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship Law, which provides for the abolition of the possibility of obtaining Bulgarian citizenship through investments. Parliament considered in first reading three draft amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship Law,” the assembly noted in a press release after the plenary session. .

Throughout the session, Bulgarian Minister of Justice Nadezhda Yordanova called on lawmakers to approve the changes, reminding them that EU authorities have called on Bulgaria to end the practice several times now.

“It is about removing the opportunity for people who do not have an ongoing relationship with Bulgaria, people who are not permanently resident in the country, to quickly become Bulgarian citizens and, in this way, citizens of the European Union,” the minister said.

On February 15, EU parliament members again called on Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta to end their citizenship-by-investment programmes, calling them “morally, legally and economically unacceptable”. MEPs also demanded stricter conditions under which golden visas would be issued to foreigners in exchange for investments in their land. Currently, 12 EU countries issue such visas.

It is estimated that since 2013, through the Bulgarian Golden Passport Scheme, more than 100 third-country nationals, mostly from the Middle East, China and Russia, have become Bulgarian citizens by investing at least one million BGN (€51,348).

According to a statement by the European Union Commission regarding the number of foreigners who acquired citizenship in Bulgaria, a quarter of these people acquired Bulgarian citizenship through the Golden Passport program in 2019 alone.

“The number of people who have obtained the so-called ‘golden passport’ based on a large investment in Bulgaria remains relatively similar, reaching 26 in 2019,” the statement said.

The statement also quotes a survey article published by independent media outlet Mediapool019, which highlighted the fact that 86 per cent of those who obtained such a passport had not made any actual investments in the country by that time.

Last week, reported that some major Russian bankers have taken advantage of the programme. However, there is no evidence that these people made real investments in the country either.

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