The European Union justice commissioner has said that so-called “golden passport” schemes — methods which allow countries to sell citizenship or residency to “potentially dangerous” individuals — are a threat to Europe’s security.
Věra Jourová warned that the diplomatic schemes were “problematic” and “unfair,” a concern that intelligence agencies all across Europe have privately shared. Said intelligence agencies worry that “golden passports” have been purchased by individuals with enough raw wealth to buy their way into the continent, the Guardian reports.
“I understand that citizenship schemes are favorable for the economy. But this is unfair for the people who cannot afford to buy citizenship. And citizenship is something so, so big and so valuable that citizenship for sale seems for me rather problematic,” Jourová said, claiming that profit from these programs was being put before national security interests.
Jourová’s criticism came as a list published on Tuesday by the OECD — a leading think tank and advocacy organization — revealed that Malta and Cyprus were named in a blacklist of over 20 states running passport schemes that may reportedly pose a high risk of tax evasion. The OECD — which promotes tighter controls — showed that the two E.U. member states have already sold citizenship to hundreds of individuals from Russia, China, and the Middle East.
“We have legitimate concerns, because if in one country a dangerous person gets citizenship, he gets citizenship for the whole of Europe. Maybe we all have to renegotiate the whole system and the whole competence of Europe,” Jourová added. “Once we have some weak points in the E.U., some weak points where it is easy to enter the space, the whole of Europe has a problem.”
Jourová is expected to issue a report where she’ll recommend tighter passport controls by the end of the year, as Brussels has no power to ban said programs at the moment. The commissioner spoke during a special interview to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Galizia was murdered in a terrorist attack in Malta on October 16 of last year. Although three men are on trial for planting the car bomb responsible for claiming her life, the people behind the ordering of the attack remain at large.
Before her murder, Galizia had reported on issues related to these “golden passports,” which in Malta are as easy to obtain as handing a €650,000 contribution to the country’s development fund in addition to the purchase or lease of property — or by investing at least €150,000 in government bonds. The scheme was designed by company Henley & Partners — a leading pioneer in the “golden passports” industry — which charges a commission for every passport sold.