Europe’s security is being put at risk by golden passport schemes that have allowed states to sell citizenship or residency to potentially ‘dangerous’ individuals.
This is according to EU justice commissioner, Věra Jourová, who has described the passports as ‘problematic’ and ‘unfair’ according to a report by The Guardian.
The so-called golden passport or citizenship by investment schemes, may be used by wealthy foreign investors to buy citizenship, or long-term residency rights, in a country.
Jourová is due to issue a report recommending much tighter controls on the schemes by the end of the year.
The commissioner said her report would insist on genuine links between a passport buyer and the country whose citizenship they were applying for.
‘Golden passports’ have become popular among affluent South Africans looking for a second citizenship in recent months, according to visa experts.
Malta, Cyprus and Portugal are some of the more preferred destinations, along with ‘cheaper’ Caribbean countries, according to Nadia Read-Thaele, director of LIO Global, World Residence and Citizenship.
Jourová comments come after the OECD published a blacklist of 21 nations operating passport schemes that are deemed to pose a high risk of tax evasion.
According to the OECD, Malta and Cyprus – two of the most popular golden passport options – have already sold citizenship to hundreds of individuals from Russia, China and the Middle East.
Jourová said the passports showed that making money was being put before security.
“I understand that citizenship schemes are favourable for the economy. But this is unfair for the people who cannot afford to buy citizenship. And citizenship is something so, so big and so valuable that citizenship for sale seems for me rather problematic,” she said.
“We have legitimate concerns, because if in one country a dangerous person gets citizenship, he gets citizenship for the whole of Europe. Maybe we all have to renegotiate the whole system and the whole competence of Europe. Because there is a contradiction.
“Once we have some weak points in the EU, some weak points where it is easy to enter the space, the whole of Europe has a problem.”
A report published by Transparency International and Global Witness, revealed how the EU had gained nearly 100,000 new residents and 6,000 new citizens in the past decade through poorly managed arrangements that were “shrouded in secrecy”, The Guardian reported.
According to the OECD, the countries most at risk of escaping reporting under the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard (CRS), include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- United Arab Emirates