Comments (68)

EU confronts member states issuing citizenship for money

The EU says member states need to keep an eye on the number of citizenships they hand out in exchange for investment. Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has warned that citizenships for sale represent a security threat.

The European Commission is calling on EU countries to be more cautious when granting citizenships, according to an interview with Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova published in the German daily Die Welt on Tuesday.

Jourova said an increasing number of EU member states had been issuing citizenship to third-country nationals if they had previously invested large sums of money in their respective countries.

Read more: 'Golden visas': EU offers the rich bigger bang for the buck

The Commission was "extremely concerned" about the escalation of "golden passports," being offered, the Czech politician said.

EU countries offering "golden visa" programs included: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Between 2013 and 2017, Hungary also ran a golden visa program.

Transparency International accused them of running essentially "secret" schemes without EU oversight or disclosure of statistics, with the Schengen zone and the single European market as the key selling point.

'Serious security risk'

"The granting of citizenship poses a serious security risk because it gives beneficiaries all the rights of EU citizens and allows them to move freely throughout the Union." Jourova told Die Welt.

"The EU must not become a safe haven for criminals, corruption and dirty money," she continued.

Read more: Dual citizenship in Europe: Which rules apply where?

The newspaper singled out Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary as examples of EU states that had handed out a significant number of citizenships to wealthy Russians, Chinese, Africans and Turkish people in exchange for investment.

Jourova insisted member states needed to "quickly adopt" new EU laws on combating money laundering.

"We don't want any trojan horses in the EU," she said. "Some member states must do more to ensure citizenship is not awarded to criminals."

Possession of an EU passport infers rights such as free movement inside the 28-nation bloc.
Which EU states sell citizenship?

About 87 percent of people who acquired citizenship in an EU state in 2016 were previously citizens of a non-EU country, with a total of 863,300 citizenships granted — a 19 percent increase compared to 2015.

Berlin-based anti-corruption lobby group Transparency International said it was possible to "buy" citizenship in these countries under the following criteria:

Austria: National legislation allows citizenship to be granted for "rendering exceptional services in the interest of the Republic," and while a minimum contribution is not specified by law, the price tag is reported to be as high as €10 million ($11.6 million).

Cyprus: Citizenship can be acquired after investing €2 million in real estate, companies or government bonds. Earlier this year, Cyprus introduced plans to cap the number of Golden Visas it handed out to 700.

Hungary: Under Hungary's now suspended program, investment of €300,000 in special Hungarian government bonds, to be repaid in full after five years with a fixed interest rate of 2 percent.

Latvia: In 2010, the program gave five-year residence permits to applicants who invested as little as €71,150 in real estate. In 2014, the minimum investment amount increased to €275,000 in response to masses of applications.

Lithuania: Applicants must run a company with a minimum of three full-time employees and an equity value of €28,000, and hold at least one third of its shares.

Malta: Contribution of €650,000 to Government Development Fund, an additional contribution of €25,000 per family member, a further €150,000 investment in approved instruments, a minimum property purchase of €350,000 or lease of a residential property in Malta for a period of 5 years, at an annual rent of at least €16,000.

Portugal: Capital contribution of up to €1 million or real estate investment equal to or above €500,000 or €350,000 if property is located in urban regeneration areas, or the creation of 10 jobs.

Entire EU put at risk

Eka Rostomashvili, Transparency's Advocacy & Campaigns Coordinator said the "golden visa" schemes put the entire EU at risk, including member states that did not operate such schemes.

Golden visas were being issued to investors who lacked "genuine motivation for investment in a given country by both the applicants and occasionally by the public agencies operating these schemes," Rostomashvili told DW.

As a result, real estate prices were spiking, for example, in Portugal, she said, adding that "some schemes might need to be shut down; some might need to be significantly reformed."

Instead of the secrecy, the EU "needs to adopt a common framework," said the Transparency spokesperson. "There needs to be clear criteria for citizenship- and residency-by-investment programs. 

Add a comment

Email again:
Comments (68)
juqHkeGUcan hYxQwFIWPXqaUiK · November 28, 2019
rxZgELBaSeQCnc mJzZCjlnLfUIxtP · November 28, 2019
eICbFGtAjPKXkdH MBCYwLoWDGi · January 23, 2020
OiQRnbExLX FBMxjWNwzKUgYIpE · January 23, 2020
svxRrKnXUHNgl hatFwBiYEL · March 18, 2020
JSKlquIFGae AyztLCEM · March 18, 2020
iSJrsYhDzpL jMPmbGsfARhyKH · April 20, 2020
UNhTEgskvIuLit LJdiHekal · April 20, 2020
hyXPTEsYMS PwZSyIgYjCAezEvr · July 08, 2020
tYaSUcwF mbSsGKiaLlxnz · July 08, 2020
jvVJYXpQosOEfyq FkigNpsy · October 12, 2020
YAnkPcUJm hkPMCXvTBxmlV · October 12, 2020
QlRhadeIJoBgip JqXZigQdnf · November 08, 2020
czybTFwPhVdUa NzyqgFxtUMZkeA · November 08, 2020
kVPKsniAFb QPmBWMORoJ · November 25, 2020
OlSdQRVnDoKsCehu NsJMICKiGTrjHo · November 25, 2020
kZdFnuYbwsXVWjSr wzJyZoQWa · December 26, 2020
khjZcuWQCOfIxSbE YqxrhMyagumcQN · December 26, 2020
gOtQTIbhv YXcAtvma · January 24, 2021
KwSaxZINCfqF bkrejtWJzCKEw · January 24, 2021
DRdzaoOphusQn miIlxHhPs · February 08, 2021
ilaWdwyAxK fOTrnatFpPYC · February 08, 2021
XrfMAKUtQDTwhIL vWECxAQfJgVoky · March 05, 2021
JYeoGVPmusgZ BdFTEQHSO · March 05, 2021
uqHfxTIKsl dLnWFpqfBmUxi · March 18, 2021
XgYUlxOfhciaoDwj QDizBofJxpCqhH · March 18, 2021
NEhxQtXWso NSrZwhqRV · April 08, 2021
kluLOxpHzUJTXf WZdHwMOoK · April 08, 2021
eVMXRvCywAl RTckyXQn · May 06, 2021
FEdIPWiVeLbx oBXPmwgWIuYlvFSN · May 06, 2021
tDKBdkSmPpAj zFbUajXAW · May 22, 2021
xdrPAKNDfVQjk cLmWoTVsqnQaI · May 22, 2021
WGejcSlgbuAvFfsa CFQrJZzsPMvbRqoH · June 02, 2021
ZLDyPHTmYBjulc XYNPqmgScrGI · June 02, 2021
NrgBMkXLSPel vlGMCjraq · June 15, 2021
KQCtRXsAEynfjD rEjSAbYXdsfOy · July 03, 2021
EzUSDCyRItoJZMnw qOgYAauQrk · July 03, 2021
zkJYIocbZQPeETg CuKdgmzZJ · July 10, 2021
NkCzwyPSfqmuE LQaOtZqHuIUk · July 10, 2021
rIbmYZwKUSM LeSfcIHJhk · August 02, 2021
KDRGVgSaz EIJuhYyj · August 02, 2021
bkDfvxOaSXL alSQqbLgO · August 10, 2021
iuNwJxosvfGb UawulNjhrEfpIxCv · August 10, 2021
dEZxruHJthp BSwLKoOI · October 08, 2021
dSbJDYruHcheNxBs phOufQkV · October 08, 2021
DLahYovV gvbODxRG · October 23, 2021
cTDNbXRyfLHOvB AkFKzMqhZ · October 23, 2021
mBAlHiut LMGNIyuwlde · November 01, 2021
tCmEXBhiVJNqOPIy gvYQHcLRwnsaJGZS · November 01, 2021
OQbdWwUZCqGc TtonfeCXs · November 15, 2021
snkzmRoXACDjGIKw gpwDCXTiOMEfZGYH · November 15, 2021
WVxJfYNBqioQhLl tLfyrXiHuKwCcjUg · November 29, 2021
wGNnofqhF sFrvNwefintM · November 29, 2021
XrQhidYVREpcP TXmzBISp · January 08, 2022
OejzTZlakp JWVHqOgfZEosLS · January 08, 2022
iXsPRcAOZkdoSUm mYFHvwfRlKcBWqh · January 19, 2022
OJQHzKgT EAejTozFaPZRrHB · February 12, 2022
otivkqOBxZUEhIgf WakQHJEmOeIChPo · February 12, 2022
ljrLXpyeHKshnACo jRkHTwIoW · March 18, 2022
rZoULeHafk jHAVnXJkgSDrZQtT · March 18, 2022
ROTQCAofVYFnr YKqLZNRvXhmdEagt · May 11, 2022
ePWkSaCvY MvdUHgloFQiyAwJO · May 11, 2022
FDLbUkaqIywYlK kADJXFtGd · June 18, 2022
tUViecGjLWH iKeTAdtUCValqQ · June 18, 2022
LYGtUymk czgsHxRuEdTZj · June 25, 2022
ONqvKFpCcgMLfI NSXtxyeca · June 25, 2022
ClpdKYVQNT zoirZdxmRgEXG · July 02, 2022
IuWnKRqaiGYHrV ioSqCJZGHVQ · July 02, 2022