Parliament on Wednesday adopted a legislative initiative report calling on the European Commission to submit a legislative proposal before the end of its current mandate. During the general debate on Monday, the Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States committed Restricting access to so-called golden passports for wealthy Russians with connections to the Russian government. The text was adopted by 595 votes to 12, with 74 abstentions.
Banning golden passports…
It considers that the essence of EU citizenship is undermined by the systems of the so-called “citizenship through investment”, that is, when people from outside the EU acquire civil rights in an EU country in exchange for money; Such systems exist in Malta, Bulgaria and Cyprus and parliament describes them as a kind of “free transport”, where member states sell something that was not meant to be a commodity. Members believe that some requests have been approved despite the fact that they do not meet all requirements, and are calling for the regulations to be repealed in light of the risks involved.
..and the rules of golden visas
Residence permit schemes by investment are less risky, but they want to see common EU rules against money laundering, corruption and tax evasion; These include:
- Comprehensive background checks (including family members of applicants and the source of assets), mandatory checks of EU databases, and monitoring procedures in non-EU countries;
- Reporting obligations for Member States, including a system of prior notification and consultation that allows other EU states to raise any objections;
- Minimum requirements for physical residence (for applicants), active participation, quality, added value and contribution to the economy (for investment).
No passports or visas for Russian oligarchs
Welcomes the commitment of relevant EU countries to restrict the sale of citizenship to Russians with ties to the Russian government and calls for all EU passport and golden visa regimes with immediate effect to exclude Russian applicants; The members also called on EU governments to reconsider all approved applications from recent years and ensure that no Russian person with financial, commercial or other ties to the Putin regime is allowed to retain their citizenship and right of residence. In addition, calls on the European Commission to exclude Russian citizens subject to EU sanctions from all golden visa regimes;
Fragmented system and the role of intermediaries
Members deplore the lack of comprehensive security controls and oversight procedures in the citizenship or residence permit systems through investment. In addition, it should not be possible to submit multiple applications in succession in different Member States. EU countries should not rely on controls implemented by non-state actors. calls for all investments made under these schemes to be subject to EU-wide fees corresponding to an appropriate proportion; The fee must be paid until golden passports are phased out, and indefinitely to obtain a golden visa. The European Commission is also called upon to put pressure on non-EU countries whose citizens travel to the EU without a visa to take similar measures.
considers that intermediaries in these systems operate without transparency and accountability and that the services they provide in relation to citizenship by investment should be prohibited; With regard to residence permits through investment, there is a need for “strict and binding regulation” of the role of intermediaries, including penalties.
The rapporteur, Sophia in ‘t Veld (Renew Europe, The Netherlands) commented on the matter: “The sole purpose of these regulations is to create a back door in the European Union for suspicious species with suspicious intent. It is time to cut that road, so that the Russian oligarchy and other Black money holders. Governments of member states refused to tackle the problem, claiming that it was not an EU issue. Looking at what is going on now, they can no longer stick their heads in the sand.”
The European Commission must now either draft a bill or justify its decision not to.
Between 2011 and 2019, at least 130,000 people obtained EU citizenship or residence permits through these schemes, with investments corresponding to revenues of more than 21.8 billion for the countries involved. Citizenship by investment systems are available in Malta, Bulgaria and Cyprus. However, the Bulgarian government has introduced a bill to phase out the system and Cyprus is currently processing only applications submitted before November 2020. Twelve EU countries have investment residence permit systems, with varying investment amounts and investment options.
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