Golden visas

In a report published on Wednesday, the anticorruption organizations Transparency International and Global Witness denounce the drifts of the practice of “golden visas” granted by European Union countries to attract foreign investment.

According to the NGOs Transparency International and Global Witness, the granting of citizenship or the right of residence to non-European individuals in exchange for investments, and without controls or transparency, is the open door to criminal and corrupt entry into the European territory.

Thus, in the last ten years, the countries of the European Union would have “sold” at least 6,000 passports and 100,000 residence permits. A total of 14 countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Malta, have resorted to one of these practices.

The two NGOs specify that Spain, Latvia, Portugal and the United Kingdom top the list of countries that have granted these golden residence permits (17,000 only in Portugal since 2012 – where 95% of the investments are for the real estate sector, which the pressure on the accommodation market increases without being translated by the creation of jobs). Followed by Greece, Cyprus, and Malta.

The amounts of the investments go from 250,000 euros for a residence permit in Greece or Latvia to two million for a Cypriot passport and up to ten million euros for an Austrian passport.

These programs have generated around € 25 billion of foreign direct investment in the EU as a whole in the last ten years, explains the report. “Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom would have earned between 500 and 1,000 million euros per year,” without worrying about their origin.

In Malta, “particular circumstances” are alleged to accept candidates with criminal or prosecuted backgrounds. “In Hungary, Latvia and the United Kingdom, the chances of obtaining these visas reach 90%,” said Transparency International and Global Witness.

The NGOs recommend that the EU set standards to intensify the monitoring of these golden visa programs and to strengthen the control of candidates and their families. They also recommend prosecuting those Member States whose programs may compromise the collective security of the EU.

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