The European Commission will very soon present a recommendation to all Member States addressing residence permits and citizenship under investor schemes, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said on Monday evening during a debate at the European Parliament plenary session on an EU-wide ban on ‘golden passports’, and common rules for ‘golden visas’.
During the debate on the report calling for a ban on “citizenship through investment” programmes and for joint EU rules on residence permit schemes, MEPs and European Commissioners said the “sale of EU passports” must end.
The acquisition of “golden passports” by Russian oligarchs was mentioned by most speakers.
Johansson said that the Commission has already taken measures, but will very soon present a recommendation to all Member States addressing residence permits and citizenship under investor schemes in particular.
She also said that the Commission exercises constant pressure on all visa free countries running citizenship by investment schemes which has brought results, as several visa-free countries have decided to terminate their schemes or have put on hold plans for new ones.
She said the Commission will do more and reassured the European Parliament they can count on the Commission to follow up on the report.
“I am considering strengthening checks on continuous residents as part of our current revision of the long-term residents Directive,” she also said. Johannsson noted that people using these schemes to falsify their tax residence must be stopped, by ensuring the implementation of the Directive on administrative cooperation, with infringements procedures if necessary.
“You ask for many measures, we will analyse all these requests and where necessary, we will propose legislation,” she added.
In his intervention, Cypriot MEP, George Georgiou, said that the investment schemes that could boost the development of society were eventually transformed into a “factory for the production and issuance of passports”.
Unfortunately, he added, as a Cypriot, he knows this very well. “My government may have stopped assessing pending applications, but the damage done to Cyprus is great,” he said.
The Akel MEP said that they demand transparency and measures against corruption at every level, and the closure of tax havens.
He added that Russians, Ukrainians, and other oligarchs were not only present in Cyprus and Malta but were scattered throughout Europe.
Georgiou said the uncollected taxes from the issuing of “golden passports” belong to society and called for the collection of these funds in order to be given to the states that need them.
The draft legislative initiative on which MEPs will vote on Tuesday and the result to be announced on Wednesday morning, says ‘citizenship by investment’ schemes, under which third country nationals can get so-called ‘golden passports’, are objectionable ethically, legally, and economically.
According to the draft text, third countries with visa-free access to the EU should also end their ‘golden passports’ schemes.
It calls for proposals for a strict EU regulation, including a levy on investments (with contributions going to the EU budget), stringent background checks and requirements for physical presence, and a comprehensive set of rules for the activities of intermediaries.