EU Parliament demands end to ‘golden passports’

BRUSSELS (AFP): The European Parliament on Wednesday demanded an end to so-called “golden passports” giving EU nationality to wealthy foreign investors as Western sanctions target Russian oligarchs over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lawmakers voted for a non-binding bill against the method of granting citizenship on financial grounds with a large majority in Strasbourg.

Opponents of golden passports — which exist in Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria — said they were “unacceptable on ethical, legal and economic grounds” and “undermine the very essence of European citizenship”.

MEPs also demanded EU-wide rules on “golden visas”, which grant residence permits on the same principle and can be obtained in 12 member states, according to the European Parliament.

Russians in particular benefit from these systems. The European Parliament asked member states to immediately exclude Russian applications and review those approved in recent years.

The controversial practice is suspected of facilitating corruption and money laundering. Brussels launched disciplinary proceedings against Cyprus and Malta in 2020 without going further.

Malta last week said it would suspend granting “golden passports” to Russians and Belarusians until further notice following the invasion of Ukraine.

Bulgaria’s new government adopted a bill in January aiming to end the passport scheme.

Earlier this week, EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said the European Commission — the bloc’s executive body — “fully shared” the objective of abolishing such programmes in all member states as soon as possible.

According to the European Parliament, at least 130,000 people obtained a “golden” passport or visa between 2011 and 2019, generating 21.8 billion euros ($24.1 billion) for the countries concerned.