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.

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