The Commission's current recommendation calls on all Member States to end the "Golden" Passport and Residence Permit Programs and to take action in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In a recommendation issued today, the Commission calls on the Member States to immediately abolish all existing citizenship programs for investors and to ensure that strict controls are in place to address the risks posed by investor residency schemes. The Commission has frequently and repeatedly expressed its serious concerns about citizenship and residence permit schemes for investors and the inherent risks involved. The current recommendation is part of the Commission's broader policy to take decisive action on these programs. The current context of the Russian attack on Ukraine again highlights the associated dangers.
Some Russian or Belarusian nationals who are subject to sanctions or who provide significant support to the war in Ukraine may have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including the ability to travel freely within the Schengen area under these programs. To address these immediate risks, the Commission is also currently advising Member States to assess whether citizenship granted under the 'Golden Passport' program to Russian or Belarusian nationals on an EU sanctions list in connection with the Ukraine should be withdrawn. Residence permits issued under a residency program to investors of Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to sanctions should be revoked immediately, after an individual assessment and in accordance with the principle of proportionality, fundamental rights and national law. members. These measures should be applied to Russian or Belarusian nationals who provide significant support in the war in Ukraine.
The Commissioner for Justice and Consumer Affairs, Mr Didier Renders, stated: "European values are not for sale. We consider the sale of citizenship through "golden passports" to be illegal under EU law and pose a serious risk to our security. It paves the way for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. All Member States implementing citizenship schemes for investors should terminate them immediately. "In addition, they will have to assess whether they should revoke any 'golden passports' they have already issued to those who have been sanctioned and to others who have provided significant support to Mr Putin's war."
The Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Mr. Elva Johnson, stated: "The right to travel freely within the Schengen area is one of the greatest benefits we enjoy. We need strict controls to ensure that this right is not abused. The "golden residence permits" issued to Russians and Belarusians subject to EU sanctions should be revoked. "Today, more than ever, in the shadow of war, we must do everything we can to ensure that the Russians and Belarusians who are subject to sanctions and those who support Mr Putin's aggressive war cannot buy into the EU."
Citizenship programs for investors
Everyone who is a citizen of an EU Member State is an EU citizen at the same time. EU citizenship automatically gives them the right to freedom of movement, access to the EU internal market, and the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in European and local elections. The granting of these rights affects all Member States, while the inherent dangers of these programs have been re-emphasized in the context of the Russian attack on Ukraine.
The current recommendation emphasizes that:
- Any Member State that continues to implement citizenship programs for investors must end them immediately. These programs are not in line with the principle of good faith cooperation and the concept of EU citizenship enshrined in the EU Treaties. On 20 October 2020, the Commission initiated infringement proceedings against two Member States for their investor citizenship schemes . In addition, the Commission has repeatedly urged another Member State to terminate its respective program. Two Member States have since scrapped their programs or are in the process of scrapping them.
- The Member States concerned should carry out evaluations in order to decide whether citizenship previously granted to Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to sanctions or providing significant support in the war in Ukraine should be revoked. In carrying out the assessments, the Member States concerned must take into account the principles laid down by the Court of Justice of the European Union in relation to the loss of EU citizenship.
Residence permit programs for investors
Residence permit schemes for investors involve inherent security risks, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption for the Member States and the EU as a whole. Russia's attack on Ukraine has once again highlighted these dangers.
In its recommendation adopted today, the Commission calls on the Member States to:
- Establish and carry out strict controls before issuing any residence permit through investment: Member States should take all necessary measures to prevent any security risks, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption that may be involved in investor licensing schemes. These measures include the establishment and conduct of checks on the conditions of residence and security before the issuance of such residence permits, as well as the verification of whether the stay is continuous.
- Immediately withdraw or refuse the renewal of residence permits issued under a residence permit program to investors of Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to EU sanctions in connection with the war in Ukraine, after evaluation. The same measure should also apply to those who provide significant support to the war in Ukraine or to other related activities of the Russian government or the Lukashenko regime that violate international law.
- To suspend the issuance of residence permits on the basis of residence permit programs for investors for all Russian and Belarusian citizens.
All measures must be implemented in accordance with the principle of proportionality, fundamental rights and national law of the Member States.
The current recommendation is just one element of the Commission's overall policy to take decisive action on both citizenship and investor residency schemes. If necessary, the Commission may take additional measures in the future.
It is up to the Member States to implement the current recommendation.
The Commission invites the Member States concerned to report on the implementation of the recommendation published today by the end of May and to inform the Commission regularly thereafter.
The citizenship programs for investors allow persons to acquire the nationality of the State concerned on the basis of a substantial payment or investment. The residence permits for investors allow third-country nationals to obtain a residence permit to live in an EU country for a fee or investment.
In 2019, the Commission issued a report on the citizenship and residence permit schemes implemented by some EU Member States, which mapped out existing practices and identified some of the risks involved in these schemes for the EU, in particular with regard to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.
Although the conditions for acquiring and losing national citizenship are governed by the national law of each Member State, subject to compliance with EU law, citizenship of a Member State is the only condition for EU citizenship and access to the rights conferred by the Treaties. The Commission has repeatedly expressed its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes and the risks involved, and has initiated infringement proceedings against two Member States in relation to their respective investor citizenship schemes.
The residence permits for investors, although different from citizenship schemes in terms of the rights they confer, pose equally serious risks to the security of the Member States and the EU as a whole. A valid residence permit gives a third-country national the right to reside in the Member State concerned, but also to travel freely within the Schengen area. Although EU law regulates entry requirements for certain categories of third-country nationals, the issuance of residence permits to investors is not regulated at EU level and remains a national competence.
The recommendation presented today does not affect the admission and residence of Russian and Belarusian nationals in the EU for other reasons, such as humanitarian admission or international protection.