As the EU takes aim at Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission has called for sanctioned Russians and Belarusians to be stripped of their 'Golden Passports.'
Today, the European Commission urged Member States to immediately repeal any existing investor citizenship schemes” and “ensure strong checks are in place to address the risks posed” by such schemes.
According to Christian Wigand, a spokesman for the European Commission, the Commission wants EU governments to "determine whether citizenships that were previously granted to Russian and Belarusian nationals subject to sanctions should be withdrawn."
The Commission's recommendations are part of the EU's policy of taking "determined action" on these schemes in the aftermath of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last month.
The Commission has warned that under these schemes, some Russian or Belarussian nationals who are subject to sanctions or who are strongly supporting the way may have obtained EU citizenship or "privileged access to the EU."
Between 2011 and 2019, it is estimated that at least 130,000 people obtained "golden passports" from EU countries such as Malta, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.
"To address these immediate risks," the Commission said, "the Commission is also recommending today that citizenship granted under a ‘golden passport’ scheme to Russian or Belarusian nationals on an EU sanctions list in connection to the war in Ukraine should be withdrawn."
As a result, the Commission advised that residence permits granted under investment residence schemes to Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to sanctions be "immediately withdrawn."
"European values are not for sale," European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers Didier Reynders said today.
"We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security," he added.
"It opens the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance. All Member States concerned should end their investor citizenship schemes immediately. In addition, they should assess whether they should revoke any golden passports already granted to sanctioned individuals and others significantly supporting Putin’s war ," according to Commissioner Reynders.
Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, echoed this sentiment, saying, "The right to travel freely within the Schengen area is among our greatest assets. We need strong checks to make sure this right is not abused."
"Golden residence permits issued to Russians and Belarusians under EU sanctions should be revoked.Now more than ever, in the face of war, we must do everything to ensure that Russians and Belarusians under sanctions and those supporting Putin’s war of aggression cannot buy their way into the EU," said Commissioner Johansson.
According to the Commission's recommendations, any Member States that still have investor citizenship schemes must shut them down immediately. Member states should also assess whether citizenship granted to Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to sanctions should be revoked.
By fLEXI tEAM