The European Commission is calling on EU countries to be more cautious when granting citizenships, according to an interview with Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova published in the German daily Die Welt on Tuesday.
Jourova said an increasing number of EU member states had been issuing citizenship to third-country nationals if they had previously invested large sums of money in their respective countries.
The Commission was “extremely concerned” about the escalation of “golden passports,” being offered, the Czech politician said.
‘Serious security risk’
“The granting of citizenship poses a serious security risk because it gives beneficiaries all the rights of EU citizens and allows them to move freely throughout the Union.” Jourova told Die Welt.
“The EU must not become a safe haven for criminals, corruption and dirty money,” she continued.
The newspaper singled out Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary as examples of EU states that had handed out a significant number of citizenships to wealthy Russians, Chinese, Africans and Turkish people in exchange for investment.
Jourova insisted member states needed to “quickly adopt” new EU laws on combating money laundering.
“We don’t want any trojan horses in the EU,” she said. “Some member states must do more to ensure citizenship is not awarded to criminals.”
Possession of an EU passport infers rights such as free movement inside the 28-nation bloc.
Which EU states sell citizenship?
About 87 percent of people who acquired citizenship in an EU state in 2016 were previously citizens of a non-EU country, with a total of 863,300 citizenships granted — a 19 percent increase compared to 2015.
EU countries offering Golden Visa programs include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Between 2013 and 2017, Hungary also ran a Golden Visa program.
Earlier this year, Cyprus introduced plans to cap the number of Golden Visas it handed out to 700.