The European Parliament voted last week an end to the so called “golden passports”, extended by some members of the EU to rich individuals, in this case mainly Russian oligarchs.
Members of the European Parliament voted 595 for, 12 against and with 74 abstentions. The all ban on the purchase of citizenship is 2025, but there will be immediate significant background checks.
However the vote was not binding. The European Commission has to outline a detailed proposal of how to end the golden schemes and then each national government will have the final say on the matter.
The system of golden passports and visas carries with it inherent risks of tax evasion, corruption and money laundering.” said Saskia Bricmont MEP, a Green MEP from Belgium. For too long oligarchs, criminals and corrupt politicians have had the ability to buy their way into Europe and launder their cash, image and identities.”
Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria are the EU countries which have run the most lucrative golden passport schemes. It is estimated that in the eight-year period until 2019, over €20 billion of investments came into EU countries in this manner.
The time of asking national governments nicely is over,” said Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veldt during the European Parliament debate. We need the total complete abolition of this procedure, not simply to reduce it but to completely eliminate it.”
However members of the European Parliament accepted in the report that the move would lead to shortfalls in national budgets and thus allowed for a phased out approach.
It is unknown exactly how many Russian citizens have received an EU passports through the schemes, but in April 2021 a leak of documents suggested Malta was giving out passports in exchange for investments of around €910,000 (US$ 1 million) and that the income amounted to €432 million the country's 2018 budget.
Gaining an EU passport allows the bearer to travel freely within the EU's border-free Schengen area, to access healthcare in all EU member states, to live and work anywhere, and also to enjoy the tax situation in that country's jurisdiction
Last minute amendments to the European Parliament's report saw EU lawmakers demand an immediate end of the schemes for Russians - other nationalities who profit from them like Saudis and Chinese would be included in the phase out.