(Express.co.uk) -- ‘GOLDEN passport’ schemes have put Europe’s security at risk as they have allowed states to sell citizenship, the EU justice commissioner has warned in a veiled dig at member states Malta and Cyprus.
The EU's justice commissioner Vera Jourouva has described the programmes as “problematic” and “unfair” as she is concerned the passport schemes have been exploited by people with the cash to buy access to the UK and Europe.
The so-called golden passport schemes may be used by rich foreign investors to buy citizenship or long-term residency rights in a country.
Malta and Cyprus have been blacklisted as countries operating passport schemes deemed to pose a high risk of tax evasion.
They have been found to have sold citizenship to rich people from Russia, China and the Middle East.
The two EU member states have already sold citizenship to people from Russia, China and the Middle East.
Ms Jourova, in a swipe at Malta and Cyprus, said making cash was being put before national security.
She said: “I understand that citizenship schemes are favourable for the economy. But this is unfair for the people who cannot afford to buy citizenship.
"And citizenship is something so, so big and so valuable that citizenship for sale seems for me rather problematic.”
The EU chief added she is concerned as if a person gets citizenship in one country, they can get citizenship for the whole of Europe.
She said: “Once we have some weak points in the EU, some weak points where it is easy to enter the space, the whole of Europe has a problem.”
In Malta, an individual can gain citizenship in return for a €650,000 contribution to the country’s development fund and the purchase or lease of property.
The scheme means that new citizens do not actually need to spend time in any of the properties they purchase or rent in the country.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said banks should police the system to crackdown on the issue.
The organisation said: “Residence and citizenship by investment schemes, often referred to as golden passports or visas, can create the potential for misuse as tools to hide assets held abroad from reporting under the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard.”