Cyprus’ EU citizenship sales scheme is a significant security risk for the EU – MEP Giegold

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

MEP Sven Giegold said that concerns that the EU citizenship sales scheme run by Cyprus is a significant security risk for the EU and is opening Europe to criminals. 

Referring to an investigative report published by Al Jazeera, Giegold said that ‘what had been feared for a long time has now been confirmed.’

A recent report by Al Jazeera analysed over 1400 applications for the so-called Citizenship-by-Investment Programme from 2017 to 2019 and most applicants were from Russia, Ukraine and China. To acquire the Cypriot citizenship, one has to invest 2.15 million euros in the country, e.g. buying real estate or companies. 

The programme injected 7 billion euros in the country. However, Giegold added, that the analysis showed that among the new citizens from 70 countries are convicted criminals, money launderers and political figures suspected of corruption. Many of them should not have been granted a passport even under Cypriot law. Convicted and wanted persons or persons under investigation are formally excluded from the programme under the Cypriot rules which were tightened in 2019. However, Cyprus does not seem to take the enforcement of these rules particularly serious. Between 2013 and 2018, only 2% of applicants were rejected.

Giegold said that in addition to programmes for EU passports as in the current revelations, there are also numerous investor programmes for residence permits, so-called Golden Visas, which also pose a threat to internal security.

Giegold said that “the sale of civil rights poses a serious threat to our security and the fight against corruption in the EU. The revelations from Cyprus show for whom investor programmes for visa and citizenship are interesting. EU passports and visas are not a commodity. Money must not be the criterion for citizenship and residence rights in the EU.”

He added that for far too long criminal money has been flowing into Europe through residence and citizenship programmes of some careless EU member states and endangers internal security. Stating that the Greens have stressed for infringement proceedings against Malta’s investor programmes, the new facts for Cyprus strengthen the resolve to put the issue on the agenda of the plenary of the European Parliament in October.