While the Europeans have increased the sanctions against the Russians and Belarusians, they are now seeking to ensure that these are not circumvented. The “holes in the racket”recognizes the Commission, are numerous: shell companies, nominees, passports or “golden” visas, which some oligarchs can benefit from.
Monday, March 28, the community executive urged the Twenty-Seven to withdraw these documents. “Some Russian or Belarusian nationals who face sanctions or support the war in Ukraine may have acquired European Union citizenship [UE] or privileged access to the Union, including to travel freely within the Schengen area”explained the Commission.
In recent years, several EU countries have offered citizens from third countries citizenship or a residence permit in exchange for an investment on their part. According to the European Parliament, “between 2011 and 2019, 42,180 applications for citizenship/residency for investment programs were approved, and more than 132,000 people, including family members of applicants from third countries” have benefited“and this, for a total investment estimated at 21.4 billion euros”.
Three countries sold, until recently, “golden passports”: Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria. Since the Commission launched an infringement procedure on this subject against the first two in October 2020, things have changed. Nicosia terminated this procedure on 1er November 2020 and is continuing its investigations into the naturalizations it granted previously. Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the Bulgarian Parliament voted to abolish this regime on 24 March. A few days earlier, Malta had suspended ” until further notice ” the access of Russians and Belarusians to these precious sesame.
On the other hand, the countries within the EU which offer a “golden visa” – ie a residence permit against investment – remain numerous. The Commission has nineteen – Bulgaria, Spain, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia – “with minimum investment levels ranging from 60,000 euros (Latvia) to 1,250,000 (the Netherlands)”, says the European Parliament. On Monday, the Latvian government announced that it would repeal this legislation.
“These programs only serve to provide a back door to enter the EU for suspicious individuals who cannot enter through the front door. The time has come to close this door, so that the Russian oligarchs and others with dirty money stay out”, Judge Liberal MEP (Renew) Sophie in’t Veld. The Dutch elected official is the author of a report calling on the Commission to act, which was adopted by the European Parliament on March 9, by 595 votes (12 against, 74 abstentions).
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