EU warns against granting citizenship for money

Photo: EPA Vera Jourova

The EU Member States should be more vigilant when they hand out citizenship in exchange for investment as such a sale may present a security threat, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova warned in an interview to the German daily Die Welt on Tuesday.

According to Jourova, an increasing number of Member States had been issuing citizenship to third-country nationals if they had previously invested large sums of money in their respective countries, and the Commission was “extremely concerned” about the escalation of the so-called “golden passport policy”.

“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 said. “The EU must not become a safe haven for criminals, corruption and dirty money,” she added.

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. Some Member States must do more to ensure citizenship is not awarded to criminals,” she pointed out.

Die Welt singled out Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary as examples of Member States that had handed out a significant number of citizenships to wealthy Russians, Chinese, Africans and Turks in exchange for investment. EU countries offering Golden Visa programmes include also Austria, Belgium, Spain, and the UK. Hungary's programme ran between 2013 and 2017, but is now frozen.

About 87% 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% increase compared to 2015.

Similar articles

  • Switzerland given until June to agree new treaty

    Switzerland given until June to agree new treaty

    The Commission decided last Tuesday to offer Switzerland six additional months to agree on a new treaty that will govern the country's future relations with the EU, Reuters reported citing two EU sources. The political decision, to be formalised at the leaders talks in Brussels, would allow Swiss stock exchanges to maintain access to EU clients until the end of June under a temporary extension of the “equivalence” regime.

  • New VAT rules to help fight against tax fraud

    New VAT rules to help fight against tax fraud

    The Commission announced last Wednesday new detailed measures that will pave the way for a smooth transition to new VAT rules for e-commerce that come into force in January 2021, the EU press service reported. “The EU is gearing up for a brand new VAT system in 2021 to make it easier for companies to sell goods online and for Member States to recoup lost VAT revenues,” Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.