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Tougher checks on citizenship bids

The EU says member states need to keep an eye on the number of citizenships they hand out in exchange for investment. Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has warned that citizenships for sale represent a security threat.

Cyprus: Tougher checks on citizenship bidsTHE EUROPEAN Commission is calling on EU countries to be more cautious when granting citizenships, according to an interview with Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova published in the German daily Die Welt on Tuesday.

Jourova said an increasing number of EU member states had been issuing citizenship to third-country nationals if they had previously invested large sums of money in their respective countries.

The Commission was “extremely concerned” about the escalation of “golden passports,” being offered, the Czech politician said.

Serious security risk

“The granting of citizenship poses a serious security risk because it gives beneficiaries all the rights of EU citizens and allows them to move freely throughout the Union.” Jourova told Die Welt.

“The EU must not become a safe haven for criminals, corruption and dirty money,” she continued.

The newspaper singled out Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary as examples of EU states that had handed out a significant number of citizenships to wealthy Russians, Chinese, Africans and Turkish people in exchange for investment.

Jourova insisted member states needed to “quickly adopt” new EU laws on combating money laundering.

“We don’t want any Trojan horses in the EU,” she said. “Some member states must do more to ensure citizenship is not awarded to criminals.”

Possession of an EU passport infers rights such as free movement inside the 28-nation bloc.

Which EU states sell citizenship?

About 87 percent of people who acquired citizenship in an EU state in 2016 were previously citizens of a non-EU country, with a total of 863,300 citizenships granted – a 19 per cent increase compared to 2015.

EU countries offering Golden Visa programs include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Between 2013 and 2017, Hungary also ran a Golden Visa program.

Earlier this year, Cyprus introduced plans to cap the number of Golden Visas it handed out to 700.

© 2018 Deutsche Welle

Readers' comments

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  • Aggis Demetriou says:

    If Criminals wanted to travel freely I’m sure they can with or without EU passports, UK has been getting the bulk of the cash for passports, little Cyprus should reduce the €2 million threshold to €1 million for passport investment, as this would be a payback for the haircut imposed by the EU back in 2013.

  • Deanna says:

    They only just realised this???

    Being an ‘EU’ citizen is now meaningless. I’m disgusted they’ve known this was going on and did nothing to stop the disgusting practice.

    Should be a treasonable offence.

  • Johnny Cyprus says:

    It’s a bit late for Ms Jourova to start worrying about this now.

    In any case it seems that criminals have been busy laundering money under her own nose in Czech republic for years.

    I wonder why she has not mentioned one of biggest vendors of citizenship, our own UK. Perhaps she thinks UK citizens will soon not be able to travel so feely in Europe anyway.

  • Richard says:

    Closing stable door after horse has bolted?

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