As published on schengenvisainfo.com, Monday 26 October, 2020.
Several Members of the European Union Parliament have once again raised their concerns regarding the citizenship-by-investment schemes operated by some of the Member States, calling of the governments of the latter to end them immediately.
The ‘golden visa schemes’ are run by several EU members, which grant non-EU citizens with the citizenship of an EU country in which they make a set investment or payment to the government.
Throughout a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs insisted that the EU must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”, highlighting some of the most common risks that arise from such problems as money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.
“EU citizenship cannot be traded as a commodity,” the majority of the MEPs who spoke during the debate pointed out, openly demanding the end of “golden passports” schemes in the Member States where they are currently run.
According to a press issued by the European Parliament upon the meeting, the MEPs underlined that granting EU citizenship to non–EU nationals without proper checks and transparency has negative consequences in the other Member States, and not only on the Member States that runs the scheme.
“Several speakers referred to the recent scandal in Cyprus, where high-ranking officials – including the Speaker of the national parliament – were secretly recorded offering to assist a fictional Chinese executive with a criminal record in getting a Cypriot passport through the national “citizenship by investment” scheme,” the press release reads.
It also explains that though the MEPs acknowledged the Commission’s decision to open infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta, some of them asserted the Commission took to long to act on the issue.
The demands follow the legal procedures taken by the EU Commission against Cyprus and Malta, as two of the 19 EU countries which run golden visa schemes.
Last Wednesday, October 21, the Commission launched legal action against Cyprus and Malta for ‘selling’ European citizenship, by sending to the government of each a letter of notice, in which they highlight that granting EU passports in exchange for a payment or investment, is against the EU laws.
SchengenVisaInfo.com has previously reported on the possibility that the EU would launch legal action against Cyprus’ government after it was reported that the latter sold citizenship to 1,400 internationals together with their 1,100 family members, who were involved in corruption affairs, money laundering and other criminal activities.
For months now, EU bodies and NGOs in the field of EU security have continuously raised the concerns that investor citizenship schemes have become a gateway to the EU for the corrupt all around the world.
Amid criticism and accusations for the involvement of high officials in the scheme, Cyprus has already announced that it would put the scheme to an end on November 1.
The Parliament had asked for the abolition of the schemes since back in February 2019, when MEPs from the European People’s Party said that citizenship-by-investment schemes pose a security threat to the EU.
“The Golden Visa and special tax schemes to attract foreign investors pose a security threat to the EU while delivering only marginal or zero economic benefits and devaluating European citizenship,” Luděk Niedermayer from the Group of the EPP and a Parliament’s Co-Rapporteur of the Report, had said at the time.
In the EU, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Malta are currently the only countries granting investors with citizenship without the obligation of physical residence.