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MEPs Call for End of Golden Passport Schemes

Photo source: European Parliament

Photo source: European Parliament

Members of the European Parliament are calling for a ban on the so-called “golden passport” schemes, which they said in a draft legislative initiative are “objectionable ethically, legally and economically and pose several serious security risks”.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs approved on Tuesday with 61 votes for, three against, and five abstentions the draft that outlines a series of measures to address issues created by “citizenship by investment schemes” (CBI).

The golden passport programs offered by several EU countries, such as Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta, offer third country nationals nationality rights in exchange for investments, while 12 member states, including Greece, have RBI schemes, offering residency rights to investors meeting specific requirements.

The committee said this was objectionable from an ethical, legal and economic point of view, posed several serious security risks and undermined the essence of EU citizenship, and as such should be phased out.

EU flags outside the european commission.

The draft initiative will be open to debate and MEPs will vote on the report in the next plenary session next month.

If endorsed by the plenary, the Commission will need to prepare a legislative proposal or justify its decision not to do so.

The draft report calls for “golden visas” to be regulated and levied at EU level and for third-countries with visa-free access to the EU to also end their “golden passports” schemes.

Greece, one of the countries offering golden visas, has benefited greatly from the program.

Additionally the said text calls for “a meaningful percentage” to be levied on the investments made, which would continue while the CBI is phased out, and indefinitely for ‘residence by investment’ (RBI) schemes, the so-called ‘golden visas’.

EU lawmakers also cited a lack of comprehensive vetting procedures and requested common EU rules aimed at strengthening the fight against money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion.

Among others MEPs are demanding:

tighter background checks (including on family members and on sources of funds)
mandatory checks against EU justice and home affairs systems, and vetting procedures in third countries
reporting obligations for member states
requirements for minimum physical residence (for applicants) and active involvement, quality, added value, and contribution to the economy (for their investments).

They are also calling for a “notification and consultation” scheme under which other member states would be able to object to a “golden visa” being granted.

Lastly, MEPs are urging the Commission to put pressure on third countries that benefit from visa-free travel to the EU to do away with their CBI and reform their RBI schemes.

Between 2011 and 2019, at least 130,000 people have taken advantage of CBI and RBI schemes in the EU, which have generated over 21.8 billion euros in revenue for the countries concerned.

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