EU wants golden passports recalled

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The European Commission called on member states to immediately end any existing investor citizenship schemes and withdraw citizenships granted to Russians or Belarusians sanctioned over Ukraine.

Commission spokesperson Annita Hipper said Monday that member states are urged to recall or not renew residence permits for Russian or Belarusian investors on the EU’s list of sanctioned persons.

According to an official statement, the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations is the responsibility of the member states.

Asked how many Russian or Belarusian investors have gotten a golden passport or visa, spokesperson Eric Mamer said that the Commission is not aware of specific numbers and that the examination of these cases is up to the member states.

Commission spokesperson on justice issues Christian Wigand said there are ongoing infringement procedures on this issue against Malta and Cyprus and that Bulgaria has also received a warning.

Bulgaria has voted to end its programme, and Cyprus ended its program and no longer grants citizenships under the scheme since November 2020.

Malta is the only member state where such a scheme exists.

Wigand added that the Cypriot government informed the Commission that it had revoked the citizenships of 39 persons and six dependants on 15 October 2021.

Also, Cyprus informed the Commission in a letter in October 2021 regarding the revocation of a further seven cases detected at an earlier stage.

The Commission said it is “urging Member States to immediately repeal any existing investor citizenship schemes and ensure strong checks are in place to address the risks posed by investor residence schemes”.

Brussels has frequently and consistently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship and residence schemes and the inherent risks they pose.

“Today`s recommendation forms part of the Commission`s broader policy to take determined action on these schemes.

“The current context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine is once again highlighting these risks”.

According to the Commission, some Russian or Belarusian nationals who are subject to sanctions or support the war in Ukraine “might have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including to travel freely in the Schengen area, under these schemes”.

“To address these immediate risks, the Commission is also recommending today that Member States assess whether citizenship granted under a ‘golden passport` scheme to Russian or Belarusian nationals on an EU sanctions list in connection to the war in Ukraine should be withdrawn.

“Residence permits granted under an investor residence scheme to Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to sanctions should be immediately withdrawn, following an individual assessment and in accordance with the principle of proportionality, fundamental rights and Member States’ national law”.