Brussels tells Malta to withdraw Russian golden passports over any links to Ukraine war

European Commission issues recommendation for withdrawal of naturalisations to Russians with links to Putin regime or war in Ukraine

Home Affairs European Commissioner Ylva Johansson
Home Affairs European Commissioner Ylva Johansson

The European Commission has called on EU member states to withdraw naturalisations of Russian or Belarusian citizens who acquired golden passports, should it become known that they are subject to EU sanctions or if they “significantly support by any means the war in Ukraine or other related activities of the Russian government or Lukashenko regime breaching international law.”

The EC’s recommendation concerns strictly residents who acquired citizenship or residence status under investment programmes, such as Malta’s sale of passports.

“Any Member State operating such an investor citizenship scheme needs to ensure compliance with its obligations pursuant to these Treaty provisions by repealing it immediately,” the Commission said, reiterating its previous stance against the sale of EU citizenship.

The EC’s recommendation calls on member states who granted citizenship or residence-by-investment to Russian or Belarusian nationals based on an investor citizenship scheme, to assess whether these individuals’ naturalisations should be withdrawn because they must become subject to sanctions over Russian links.

The Commission also said member states should immediately withdraw, and refuse to renew, residence-by-investment permits to Russian and Belarusian nationals under EU sanctions or who support the war in Ukraine “or other related activities of the Russian government or Lukashenko regime breaching international law.”

It said member states that operate investor residence schemes should suspend such residence permits to Russian and Belarusian nationals and report to the Commission by the end of May.

MEPs want ban on golden passports and strict rules on residence-by-investment

The Commission considers that investor citizenship schemes by a Member State are not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation,” Commissioner Ylva Johannson said in her communication to member states.

“In addition to the need to immediately repeal any existing investor citizenship schemes, and to operate investor residence schemes prudently, further action should be considered by Member States in view of Russia’s military aggression and invasion of Ukraine and the gravity of the current situation.”

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Russian aggression against Ukraine, in which it called on member states with residence by investment schemes to review all beneficiaries of such residence status and to revoke those permits attributed to Russian high-net-worth individuals and their families, in particular those linked to sanctioned individuals and companies.Since 2014, Parliament has been calling for a ban of CBI/RBI schemes, but so far the Commission has not put forward any proposals. Although the Commission claims it has no legal basis for legislative action, it did launch infringement proceedings against Cyprus and Malta in October 2020.

Malta’s citizenship-by-investment scheme was suspended for Russian and Belarusian nationals due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine only last week, but only because “existent due diligence checks cannot be carried out effectively because of the war.”

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