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EU assessing golden passports

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The EU Commission has received a reply from Nicosia in the ongoing infringement procedure into the Cyprus Investment Programme and is currently assessing it, a spokesperson said.

Responding to whether the European Commission has received the interim report of the Cypriot inquiry into the passports scandal, Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand could not confirm whether the report has been received.

“But of course, we are following this issue very closely in the context of the ongoing infringement procedure against Cyprus.”

Wigand said the process is currently in its second stage after the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Cyprus in June.

“We have received a reply from the Cypriot authorities, which we are currently assessing in view of the next steps.

“European citizenship, European values are not for sale, and we have made our legal case clear that we expect this to be changed in Cyprus and also in Malta, which is the second country where there is an ongoing infringement procedure.”

The spokesperson said Brussels is following all developments: “The basis for our decisions is always our exchanges with the member states, and we are currently analysing the reply” sent by Cyprus.

The Commission has stepped up legal action against Cyprus and Malta over their cash-for-passports schemes in a move that may eventually see them end up in court and face fines.

The EU executive launched the first step of the legal process last year when it sent letters of formal notice to the two countries, giving them two months to respond.

In June, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Cyprus for failing to address its concerns.

Nicosia had two months to inform the Commission of measures taken to comply with EU laws or face legal action.

Although Cyprus repealed its scheme and stopped receiving new applications on 1 November 2020, the EU said it was “processing pending applications”.

A public inquiry found that the government broke the law countless times to grant citizenship to over 6,700 people from 2007 to 2020.

The Commission considers that Cyprus and Malta failed to fulfil their obligations by establishing and operating investor citizenship schemes that offer citizenship in exchange for pre-determined payments and investments.

Malta started selling passports to wealthy foreigners in 2014, with strong demand mostly from rich Russians, Chinese and others in the Arab gulf.

An EU passport grants visa-free travel, working and residency rights throughout the 27-nation European Union.

Valletta’s ‘citizenship by investment’ scheme has raked in $1.5 bln since its launch in 2014, while Cyprus ‘golden passports’ generated over €7 bln. (source agencies)