The European Commission is calling on EU states to take immediate action on “golden visa” schemes as these threaten security and facilitate corruption particularly in view of the Russia-Ukraine war.
“European values are not for sale. We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security. It opens the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance,” said Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders.
The Commission is reiterating its call on EU governments to immediately revoke any existing investor citizenship programs and implement stringent checks to ensure risks are not posed. It is also requesting the termination of such programs and expects reports on the implementation of the recommendation by the end of May.
“Any member state still operating investor citizenship schemes needs to terminate them immediately. Such schemes are not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation and with the concept of EU citizenship enshrined in the EU treaties,” said the Commission in this week’s statement.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the EU is pushing its broader policy to take determined action on these schemes.
Last month, Greece stopped issuing or renewing residence permits for investment purposes to citizens of the Russian Federation.
“All member states concerned should end their investor citizenship schemes immediately. In addition, they should assess whether they should revoke any ‘golden passports’ already granted to sanctioned individuals and others significantly supporting Putin’s war,” added Reynders.
According to the Commission’s statement, a number of Russian or Belarusian nationals facing sanctions or supporting the war might have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including to travel freely in the Schengen area, under these schemes.
In its recommendation, the Commission is also requesting that EU states immediately withdraw, following an individual assessment and in accordance with the principle of proportionality, citizenship granted through ‘golden passport’ programs to Russian or Belarusian nationals on an EU sanctions list.
“The right to travel freely within the Schengen area is among our greatest assets. We need strong checks to make sure this right is not abused. Golden residence permits issued to Russians and Belarusians under EU sanctions should be revoked,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson.