The European Commission said on Monday that national EU governments should abolish golden passport programmes that allow affluent people, such as Russian billionaires, to buy citizenship and avoid visa requirements.
The move comes in the wake of a new drive by the European Parliament to limit and control the multi-billion-euro citizenship and visa sector, which the EU has long regarded as a security risk. The commission also asked national governments to halt the sale of visas to Russians and Belarusians and to consider whether oligarchs tied to the Kremlin or who support the Ukrainian war should be deprived of previously awarded citizenship rights.
“Some Russian or Belarusian nationals who are subject to sanctions or are significantly supporting the war in Ukraine might have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including to travel freely in the Schengen area, under these schemes,” the European Commission said.
Since the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the EU has banned over 700 senior politicians, businessmen, and military personnel accused of assisting the Kremlin. Many EU countries have golden visa and passport programmes in place. The panel stated that it did not know whether sanctioned individuals were beneficiaries of the golden passport or visa programme, but advised that national governments investigate whether sanctioned individuals held them.
The panel also demanded that existing national passport-sale programmes be discontinued immediately. Only Malta, Cyprus, and Bulgaria now have such programmes, and they have all pledged to end them. According to the committee, countries should decide whether to cancel their passports and withdraw their residency permits promptly.
An EU official declined to comment on whether the EU had requested lists of those who had purchased visas or passports. The commission did not call for the abolition of golden visa programmes, but it did urge stricter controls and asked EU nations to halt the issuance of resident permits to Russians and Belarusians.
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