Granting of citizenship to a Member State of the European Union against money is a vicious practice with dangerous consequences which may go beyond the national borders of the State which has issued the passport.

The European Union’s Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová criticised the practice of some countries to “reward” with “gold passports” rich people outside the EU and encourage the states to make sure that they do not benefit this way any criminals. For this purpose, Member States must “quickly adopt” the new EU money laundering laws.

“We do not want Trojan horses in the EU,” she said. “Some Member States must do more work to ensure that citizenship is not awarded to criminals”.

Brussels insists that citizenship be provided in cases where there is a real connection with the country concerned, but the decision on this belongs to the specific countries.

Cyprus and Malta are among the countries criticised for this practice. However, other countries which also apply it are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Between 2013 and 2017 Hungary also had the Golden Visa programme. In turn, the authoritative German newspaper Die Welt refers specifically to Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary as examples of EU countries which give a significant number of passports to rich Russians, Chinese, Africans and Turks in exchange for investment. According to the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, you can buy citizenship in these countries against investments starting from €250 000.

The argument is that rewarding citizenship can represent a “serious security risk” because it grants rights, including the right to free movement in the EU.

“The EU must not become a refuge for criminals, corruption and dirty money,” Jourová said.

About 87 percent of people who have acquired citizenship in an EU country in 2016 are nationals of a country outside the Union, with a total of 863 300 passports which equals to 19 percent increase from 2015.