The European Commission’s enquiries into citizenship-by-investment programmes are still on-going, as new agreements seem closer to establishing an automatic exchange of applicant data between European Members into practice.
In order to avoid the programmes becoming a means of acquiring EU citizenship rather than just the nationality of one specific country; the EC will start requesting information relating to schemes, such as the number of applications accepted and rejected each year, as well as the applicant’s names and countries of origin.
Although 17 other Member States such as the UK and Portugal operate similar ‘golden visa’ schemes, these are only temporary residence visas. Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria are under most scrutiny as these are the schemes offering 10-year European Passports without having to prove permanent or physical residency.
The EC has expressed continued issues the schemes pose to Europe in terms of security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption; and asserts that anyone who receives an EU Passport should have a legitimate connection to the particular Member State, as well as the following practical improvements:
All Member States will enforce the same standardised checks on applicants to avoid one scheme becoming more desirable due to its lenient security checks.
Develop a nationwide set of security checks for all citizenship-by-investment schemes by the end of 2019.
Develop a standard set of specific risk-management procedures.
Closer monitoring of citizenship-by-investment schemes in third-party countries wanting to join the EU.
Increase transparency and collaboration between Member States on how nationality is to be approved.
At the moment, Member States do not exchange information on successful or rejected applicants. Going forward, the EC would like member states to share the following information with each other:
Each applicant’s name and country of origin.
The total number of citizenships or residence permits granted to applicants based on their investments.
The number of residence permits or citizenships rejected.
The total numbers of applications received each year.
Cyprus’ president released a statement asserting that the island is doing everything it can to follow protocol and says the jurisdiction is being unfairly targeted by EU officials. Meanwhile, Malta claims to have already addressed the majority of EC uncertainties. While Bulgaria is being the most agreeable by offering to pause its citizenship-by-investment programme, who are offering an EU Passport in exchange for an investment amount of EUR €1.5 million over a two-year payment plan.
Justice Commissioner for the EC, Ms Vera Jourona stated that the Commission will also be monitoring the impact of programmes by EU visa-free third countries as part of a new visa-suspension instrument.