Europe’s doors are wide open to criminals and corrupt practices thanks to questionable, opaque and poorly managed “golden visa” programmes in some EU member states. This is the result of an alarming study that was jointly presented today in Brussels by Transparency International and Global Witness. The sale of citizenships and residence rights in exchange for domestic investment is directly linked to money laundering and terrorist financing in some EU Member States.
The presented data shows that in the last ten years at least 6,000 citizenships and almost 100,000 residence permits have been sold in the EU. Spain, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal and the UK have issued the most golden visas – over 10,000 each – to foreign investors and their families. They are followed by Greece, Cyprus and Malta.
The Golden Visa programmes in all EU Member States have generated around 25 billion euros in foreign investment over the last ten years. Spain (an average of 976 million euros annually), Cyprus (914 million), Portugal (670 million) and the UK (498 million) are the top earners. In relative terms, the figures are particularly alarming for small economies such as Cyprus and Malta. By selling citizenships, Cyprus has collected 4.8 billion euros since 2013, while Malta has received around 718 million euros in foreign direct investment since 2014.
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group says:
“EU passports and visas are no commodity. Money must not be the criterion for citizens’ and residents’ rights in the EU. Visas and naturalisation in Europe should depend on integration and residence, not on one’s wallet. The trade in passports and visas by EU states must be stopped as soon as possible. These programmes are a gateway to criminal money. The EU states attract criminals and corrupt people from all over the world. National programmes without European minimum standards are a security risk for Europe. We need a European law to curb the sale of European civil rights and we must intensify the fight against money laundering. The EU Commission must set minimum standards for these programmes and ensure that all governments who offer passports and visas to investors comply with them”.
Transparency International-Bericht „European getaway – Inside the murky world of golden visas“