One should not be able to buy the way to Europe – that’s why the European Commission wants to pay more attention in future to the conditions under which EU member states issue residence permits or even passports. On Wednesday, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova and Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos presented plans in Brussels to stem the issuance of so-called “golden visas”, for which wealthy people in some EU member states can apply – against corresponding investments in the desired country. “We are absolutely convinced that this is an issue in which the whole EU has a say,” said Commissioner Jourova. “The other states have a right to get an overview and to watch what happens there.”
According to the Commission, there are offers for golden visas or passports in 20 EU Member States. Thus, only Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria allow investors to acquire citizenship. However, they have the right to a residence permit in 17 other states, including Greece, Spain, France, Portugal or Luxembourg; Germany is not on this list.
Golden visas can promote money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption
Both variants are a nuisance to the Commission because access to a Member State also automatically gives access to the whole of the EU, and thus also to the domestic and capital markets. Golden Visas are therefore risk in terms of security, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.
The legal possibilities to prevent such offers are low, says Jourova, because the issuing of visas or passports is a national task of the Member States. “But we can not do anything,” she said. As a first step, the Commission intends to set up a group of experts where the Member States can exchange views on the criteria for granting visas. In addition, they wanted to pay more attention in the future, whether the granting of such residence permits all EU rules are respected, such as whether the money invested meets the anti-money laundering claims of the EU. By the end of the year, the expert group will also develop common minimum requirements for safety checks.
Transparency International had already criticized the Commission’s plans on Tuesday as inadequate: “The problems are obvious,” said Laure Brillaud, who examined the phenomenon over the past year. Now she had expected concrete guidelines, “instead of talking about it again”. The Green MEP Sven Giegold also criticized the draft as “half-hearted”: The Federal Government must strengthen the Commission’s project with “strong demands for a legal EU regulation,” he said.