EC Urges Members to Revoke ‘Golden Passports’ from Russians, Belarussians
The European Union’s executive body called on member states to immediately revoke the so-called ‘golden passports' and ‘golden residence permits’ they may have granted to Russians and Belorussians who were recently sanctioned over the invasion of Ukraine.
The measures should be imposed on Russian or Belarussian nationals who are “significantly supporting the war in Ukraine or other related activities of the Russian government or Lukashenko regime breaching international law,” according to the statement.
Some of the sanctioned Russians or Belarussians might have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including to travel freely in the Schengen area, under investment programs some EU countries offer. Those programs allow foreigners to invest certain amounts of money mostly into real estate and in return they are granted citizenship or a residence permit.
“EU citizenship automatically gives the right to free movement, access to the EU internal market, and the right to vote and be elected in European and local elections,” according to the Commission.
In a 2019 report, the Commission mapped existing practices and noted various concerns regarding how the schemes impact the EU, particularly in terms of security, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.
Therefore, and in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Commission stressed that “any member state still operating investor citizenship schemes needs to terminate them immediately.”
It further encouraged member states to set up and enforce stringent inspections before giving any resident visa based on investment.
“European values are not for sale,” Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, said. The sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ “opens the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance,” he warned.
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, stressed that “now more than ever, in the face of war,” the authorities in the EU “must do everything to ensure that Russians and Belarusians under sanctions and those supporting Putin’s war of aggression cannot buy their way into the EU.”