There have been at least 6,000 citizenships granted (around 5,000 of which were given to non-EU nationals) and 100,000 residence permits handed out through golden passport schemes.
Such schemes “jeopardise the principle of sincere cooperation” and “have significantly increased the political, economic and security risks for European countries”, the Commission said.
The EU has long been critical of such initiatives, with the commissioner for justice, Vera Jourova, lamenting last year that “the EU must not become a safe haven for criminals”.
Malta and Cyprus in the spotlight
The Commission was particularly scathing of the schemes run by Malta and Cyprus, as they “pose a high risk to the integrity of [due diligence procedures]”.
In fact, International Adviser reported earlier this year that Malta had given out some 700 citizenships by investment to Russian nationals, an issue that the EU is extremely concerned about.
However, Edward Scicluna, the finance minister of Malta, told IA back in January: “We refuse, with a very strict due diligence, 25% of those who applied. We do not accept everybody.”
Despite this, the Commission has urged member states to “phase out all existing citizenship by investment or residence by investment schemes as soon as possible”.
In the meantime, the EU28 “should require physical presence in the country as a condition for benefiting from [the schemes]”, as this was not often required.
Lack of transparency
The decision was also a result of the lack of information related to the applicants of such schemes, the number of individuals granted citizenship or residence permits, the amount invested and the origin of that money.
These concerns also sparked several formal investigations, both at national and European levels, on corruption and money laundering issues being possibly facilitated by golden passport schemes.