Members of the European Union Parliament have called on member states that run programs granting citizenship to foreigners in exchange for an investment in their territory to end such schemes, describing them as “morally, legally and economically unacceptable”.
At a meeting on Tuesday of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, MEPs voted in favor of a draft legislative initiative report outlining several actions member states are urged to address in relation to citizenship and residency. through investment schemes.
Commenting on the report, Rapporteur Sophia In Field said such programs put the EU’s common security at risk while also calling it a “ridiculous act”.
“Being a citizen or resident of the European Union is at the core of what the Union embodies: freedom and rights. Citizenship is a right, not a commodity, that is bought and sold. Member state governments sell what they do not own to sell, exploiting the reputation of the European Union for profit.
The report was approved by 61 votes, with three abstentions and five abstentions. Now the same will be discussed in the next plenary session between March 7-8. If approved by a majority, the EU Commission will have to work on a legislative proposal on the issue or make its arguments for a decision not to.
A ‘Golden Passport’ is granted to third-country nationals who invest in a particular EU country that operates such a scheme. At the same time, the “Golden Visa” is a similar program that gives an investor residing in the country in which he invests.
According to the EU, at least 130,000 non-EU/EEA citizens benefited from such programs between 2011 and 2019, with which EU countries operating such schemes generated more than €21.8 billion in revenue.
Currently, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta are the only EU members that operate schemes through which they grant passports to foreign investors. The first two were set to terminate the scheme, while Malta showed no signs of intending to do so.
Just this week, TheSchengen.com reported that authorities in Bulgaria had granted golden passports to some of Russia’s top bankers, despite there being no evidence that they had made real investments in the country.
There are 12 other EU member states that have residency-by-investment schemes, also known as ‘golden visa programmes’.
For the latter, the report does not ask for their termination, however, it does demand stricter rules for issuing such visas in exchange for investments, including here more stringent background checks, reporting obligations for member states, as well as minimum physical residence requirements for applicants Active participation, quality, added value and contribution to the economy through the investment they make.
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MEPs also want to ban third parties from mediating between an EU country and an investor, insisting that these brokers are neither transparent nor accountable.
>> Urging Europe to end golden visa programs in EU countries