As published on international-adviser.com, Thursday 10 March, 2022.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have overwhelmingly decided to demand a ban on golden passports.
The vote – which saw 595 in favour, 12 against and 74 abstentions – follows commitments by the European Commission, France, Italy, Germany, the UK, Canada and the US to limit wealthy Russians with links to the government from accessing golden passports.
The EP deemed citizenship-by-investment schemes as “objectionable from an ethical, legal and economic point of view and pose several serious security risks”.
The schemes are currently in place in several countries across the continent and have been described as “free riding” with the European Parliament highlighting that EU citizenship was never intended to become a commodity.
MEPs said that applications have been accepted even when requirements were not met and demanded for these schemes to be phased out as soon as possible, once again.
As a result, they have also called for an EU levy of “a meaningful percentage” on the investment made until golden passport schemes are shut down, and to apply one indefinitely for visas.
The EP also proposed to ban intermediaries involved in citizenship-by-investment schemes and to impose a “strict and binding regulation” for their role in residency programmes, which should include sanctions.
On the golden visa front, or residency-by-investment, the European Parliament said there are less severe risks posed by these schemes, but rules should be put in place to tackle money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
As a result, the parliament proposed a heavier regulation of these types of visas, including:
Russian oligarchs, however, would be excluded from both citizenship- and residency-by-investment schemes under the EP proposals.
Dutch MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld said: “These schemes only serve to provide a back door into the EU for shady individuals who cannot enter in broad daylight. It is time we closed that door, so that Russian oligarchs and other persons with dirty money stay out.
“Member state governments have refused to address the problem, claiming it was not an EU matter. Given what is currently happening, they cannot duck this issue anymore.”
Now, the European Commission has to prepare a legislative proposal or justify its decision not to do so.
Data from the EP’s Think Tank shows that at least 130,000 people benefitted from golden passports and/or visas in the EU between 2011 and 2019 generating revenues of nearly €22bn (£18bn, $25bn) for the countries involved.