The European Commission (EC) has issued an ultimatum to member states selling “golden passports”, telling them such sales pose “serious risks to security” and “open the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance” and must therefore end “immediately”.
In a strongly worded recommendation issued on Monday, the EC said the call forms part of the EC’s broader policy to take “determined action” on citizenship and residence investor schemes, saying the Russian aggression against Ukraine “once again highlights these risks”. It warned that it may “take additional action in the future as required”.
The member states affected – Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria – must report their progress on their compliance with the recommendation by the end of May.
Bulgaria recently voted to end its programme.
The EC’s call follows consistent calls by the European Parliament to reign in the multi-billion-euro citizenship and visa industry.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EP President Roberta Metsola called for an end to “the dangerous phenomenon of golden passports that provide a backdoor to European citizenship”, saying this was needed to achieve “strategic autonomy”.
Commissioner for Justice and Consumers Didier Reynders, said: “European values are not for sale. We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security. It opens the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance.
“All Member States concerned should end their investor citizenship schemes immediately. In addition, they should assess whether they should revoke any ‘golden passports’ already granted to sanctioned individuals and others significantly supporting Putin’s war.”
Apart from citizen-by-investment schemes, the EC also took aim at so-called “golden visa” schemes, but it stopped short of calling for their termination.
It urged strict checks and for a suspension of visas to Russians and Belarusians.
Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, said: “The right to travel freely within the Schengen area is among our greatest assets. We need strong checks to make sure this right is not abused.”
Finally, the EC also called on those countries operating both citizenship and residence investor schemes to check whether sanctioned people were holding such passports or visas, and if so, to annul or withdraw them immediately.
“Golden residence permits issued to Russians and Belarusians under EU sanctions should be revoked. Now more than ever, in the face of war, we must do everything to ensure that Russians and Belarusians under sanctions and those supporting Putin’s war of aggression cannot buy their way into the EU.”
At the begining of March, Malta bowed to pressure and suspended its citizenship and resident programmes for Russian and Belarusian nationals.
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