EU urges crackdown on ‘golden visas and passports’

24 January, 2019 12:00 AM printer

BRUSSELS: The European Union urged member countries on Wednesday to crack down on schemes granting “golden visas and passports” to foreign investors, warning they can bring corruption and money laundering in their wake, reports AFP.

The European Commission, the EU executive, published a report urging members to curb the practice of giving foreigners—often Chinese, Russians and Americans—residency or citizenship in return for investment.

“We speak about opening (a) golden gate to Europe for some privileged people who have the money to pay for citizenship or residence,” EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova said at the report’s publication.

“We are looking at it with concern,” Jourova told a news conference in Brussels.

The commissioner said investor residence and citizens schemes, known as “golden visas and golden passports,” should not be a weak link in EU efforts to curb corruption and money laundering.

The report said wealthy candidates for residency or citizenship do face insufficient security and background checks to prevent them from posing a security risk, laundering money or evading taxes.

EU countries set conditions for granting and withdrawing nationality but must do so with respect for EU law, enforced by the European Court of Justice, officials said.

The bloc’s laws are important as a citizen of one EU country has the right to travel to others, exercise economic activities within the 28-nation internal market, and vote in local and European elections.

“Crime has no borders,” said Jourova, a Czech politician.

The Commission complained that Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta run schemes granting foreign investors citizenship without requiring them to live in those EU countries or show “genuine connections” to them.

The investor citizenship schemes, known as “golden passports,” offer less strict requirements than those for foreigners seeking to become naturalised citizens.

The Commission also said residence permits pose serious security risks to member states.

An EU residence permit gives a third-country national the right to live in the member country and to travel freely in Europe’s passport-free Schengen area.