The European Commission on Wednesday presented for the first time a comprehensive report on investor citizenship and residence schemes operated by a number of EU member states.
'The report maps the existing practices and identifies certain risks such schemes imply for the EU, in particular, as regards security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption,' the commission said.
'A lack of transparency in how the schemes are operated and a lack of cooperation among Member States further exacerbate these risks,' it added.
Across the EU, “golden passports” -- investor citizenship schemes -- are operated in three countries, while 20 countries run investor residence schemes or “golden visas” as a valid residence permit, giving a third-country national the right to reside in the member state and also to travel freely in the Schengen area.
'In the EU, three Member States (Bulgaria, Greek Cypriot administration and Malta) currently operate schemes that grant investors the nationality of these countries under conditions which are less strict than ordinary naturalization regimes,” the commission said.
'In these three Member States, there is no obligation of physical residence for the individual, nor a requirement of other genuine connections with the country before obtaining citizenship,' it added.
According to the Commission, these schemes are often advertised as a means of acquiring EU citizenship, together with all the rights and privileges associated with it.
'Legally residing in the EU and in the Schengen area comes with rights and privileges that should not be abused,' said Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship.
Not giving an exemption for such schemes, Avramopoulos said member states must at all times fully respect and apply existing obligatory checks and balances.
'The work we have done together over the past years in terms of increasing security, strengthening our borders, and closing information gaps should not be jeopardized,' he said.
Pointing the free movement and access to the internal market, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova said becoming a citizen of one member state also means becoming an EU citizen with all its rights.
'People obtaining an EU nationality must have a genuine connection to the Member State concerned,' Jourova said.
'We want more transparency on how nationality is granted and more cooperation between member states,' she said.
By Muhammed Ali Gurtas