Tag Archives: citizenship

MEPs refuse “golden” passports scheme

Brussels 22.10.2020 EU citizenship cannot be traded as a commodity, according to a majority of speakers, who want to end the “golden passports” schemes currently in place in some member states.

In a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the inherent risks that these programmes give rise to, namely money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. They insisted that Europe must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”.

MEPs underlined that granting EU citizenship to third-country nationals without proper checks and transparency has negative consequences in other member states, eroding mutual trust and undermining common values.

Several speakers referred to the recent scandal in Cyprus, where high-ranking officials – including the Speaker of the national parliament – were secretly recorded offering to assist a fictional Chinese executive with a criminal record in getting a Cypriot passport through the national “citizenship by investment” scheme. They also acknowledge the Commission’s decision to open infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta, though some complained that it has taken too long to act.

Some MEPs noted that the share of revenues from these programmes is significant for countries such as Cyprus, whilst many argued that EU values and rights should not be for sale.

Cyprus, Malta, and Bulgaria are the three EU countries where it is possible to get citizenship in exchange for an investment, the so-called “golden passports”. As many as 19 EU countries operate “residence by investment” programmes, known as “golden visas”.

In January 2019, the European Commission established a group of experts with representatives from all EU member states to develop common standards and guidelines in this area. After four meetings last year, the group has so far not met in 2020.

Cyprus and Malta risk EU lawsuits

20.10.2020 Today, the European Commission is launching infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta by issuing letters of formal notice regarding their investor citizenship schemes also referred to as “golden passport” schemes.

The Commission considers that the granting by these Member States of their nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment and without a genuine link with the Member States concerned, is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union. This also undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship provided for in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. As a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the Member States operating them, nor are they neutral with regard to other Member States and the EU as a whole.

The Commission considers that the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments without any genuine link with the Member States concerned, undermines the essence of EU citizenship.

The Cypriot and Maltese governments have two months to reply to the letters of formal notice. If the replies are not satisfactory, the Commission may issue a Reasoned Opinion in this matter.

Investor citizenship schemes allow a person to acquire a new nationality based on payment or investment alone. These schemes are different to investor residence schemes (or “golden visas”), which allow third-country nationals, subject to certain conditions, to obtain a residence permit to live in an EU country.

The conditions for obtaining and forfeiting national citizenship are regulated by the national law of each Member State, subject to due respect for EU law. As nationality of a Member State is the only precondition for EU citizenship and access to rights conferred by the Treaties, the Commission has been closely monitoring investor schemes granting the nationality of Member States.

The Commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes and certain risks that are inherent in such schemes. As mentioned in the Commission’s report of January 2019, those risks relate in particular to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption and the Commission has been monitoring wider issues of compliance with EU law raised by investor citizenship and residence schemes. In April 2020, the Commission wrote to the Member States concerned setting out its concerns and asking for further information about the schemes.

In a resolution adopted on 10 July 2020, the European Parliament reiterated its earlier calls on Member States to phase out all existing citizenship by investment (CBI) or residency by investment (RBI) schemes as soon as possible. As stated by President von der Leyen in the State of the Union Address of 16 September 2020, European values are not for sale.

The Commission is also writing again to Bulgaria to highlight its concerns regarding an investor citizenship scheme operated by that Member State and requesting further details. The Bulgarian government has one month to reply to the letter requesting further information, following which the Commission will decide on the next steps.

Bulgaria abandons passport for investment practice

Bulgaria plans to end practice offering wealthy foreigners to obtain citizenship against investment, the justice ministry said on the 22 of January,  adding the scheme had failed to bring any significant economic benefits.

The legal changes come a day after the media reports about the European Commission plans to warn against such an application schemes, which could be used by foreign organized crime groups to infiltrate the EU. It also increases the risk of money laundering, emblazonment, corruption and tax evasion.

Bulgaria is one of three EU countries, along with Cyprus and Malta, that currently grant citizenship against investment. The other 20 member states, including these three, also offer the resident permits on similar conditions.

EU warns against “selling passports” to wealthy

The European Commission will warn against selling the EU citizenship or residence to wealthy individuals, which could help foreign organized crime groups infiltrate the bloc and increase the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

The warnings are included in a draft report that is expected to be published on January 23 by the European Union’s executive, according to Reuters.

Although individuals who purchase citizenship and residence in EU states can do it for legitimate reasons, the commission said the schemes posed “risks of infiltration of non-EU organized crime groups in the economy, money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.”

Malta (pictured), Cyprus and Bulgaria are the countries practicing attraction of wealth in exchange of the citizenship.

The issue of granting EU citizenship is regularity under fire of criticism, while countries issue passports to individuals in spite of their criminal records.

May vows to protect EU citizens rights

British Prime minister Theresa May ensure EU citizens rights in UK would be protected in case Brexit talks would not reach a deal.

“There are over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK who will be understandably worried about what the outcome of yesterday’s summit means for their future. I want to be clear with you that even in the event of no deal your rights will be protected.”

Gulen to be stripped of Turkey’s passport

Turkey announced it would strip 130 persons of citizenship for allerged militant links, including the U.S.-based cleric Muhammed Fethullah Gülen blamed for ingeneering last July’s coup, unless they all return to the country within three months.

 

In a list of what it called fugitives from justice, the interior ministry named Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers Faysal Sariyildiz and Tugba Hezer, and former HDP lawmaker Ozdal Ucer.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has repeatedly denied involvement in the coup and publically condemned it.

 

Russia to revoke citizenship from terrorists

The State Duma – the lower chamber of Russian parliament will consider a draft bill proposing to effectively strip those convicted on terrorism-related charges of citizenship. President Vladimir Putin first suggested the concept after following the St. Petersburg Metro attack.

The bill has been put forward by the leaders of all four State Duma factions: United Russia, Communist party, Fair Russia, and Liberal Democratic Party.  The draft legislation proposes amendments to be made to the Article 22 of the Federal law on Russian citizenship since the Russian Constitution directly prohibits to strip Russians of their citizenship.

Australia for value-based concept of citizenship

In Australia  Turnbull government is tightening the requirements for the citizenship, with applicants to face a stand-alone English test and be asked to commit to embracing ‘Australian values’.

Under the overhaul, would-be citizens will need to have been a permanent resident of Australia for four years, rather than 12 months.

Prospective citizens will also be required to have increased proficiency with the English language – a requirement Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said is “the single best thing any person coming to this country can do”.

“The headline points are these… They’ve lived here for four years as permanent residents, they speak English, share our values and are integrated… This will be good for the applicants, and good for the nation,” Mr Turnbull said today.

“What we’re doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our commitment to Australian values.”

The prime minister and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton emphasised the focus on the nation’s values as a prime indicator of whether citizenship would be granted.

The current multiple-choice test will possibly include questions about the applicant’s attitudes to female genital mutilation and spousal abuse.