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Crackdown on EU golden passports over Russian invasion of Ukraine

The EU executive also called on EU member states to suspend the issuance of residence permits under investment schemes to all Russian and Belarusian nationals regardless if they are subject to sanctions

HANDOUT - 28 March 2022, Belgium, Brussels: European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson holds a press conference after the European Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on the situation of Ukrainian refugees, at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/EU Council/dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson holds a press conference after the European Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on the situation of Ukrainian refugees, at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/EU Council.

The European Commission urged EU member states on Monday to withdraw EU citizenship awarded to Russian and Belarusian individuals subject to sanctions through golden passport schemes.

"Russians and Belarusians under sanctions and those supporting Putin's war of aggression cannot buy their way into the EU," said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson in a statement.

The European Union adopted massive economic sanctions targeting oligarchs, politicians and business leaders in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including travel bans and a freeze on assets in the EU.

The move is part of a wider commission crackdown to eliminate citizen investor schemes from the bloc. Under such policies, a person may attain citizenship of an EU country in return for significant investments.

Investor residence schemes allow an individual to obtain a residence permit for an EU country in exchange for investment or payment. The EU executive is urging EU governments to end both policies.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a statement that the investment schemes pose serious security risks and open "the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance."

The commission said this is due to the freedom of movement granted by EU citizenship to travel without checks in the Schengen area, the EU's free travel area.

The commission has already started legal procedures against Malta and Cyprus for offering such schemes.

Suspend issuance of residence permits

The EU executive also called on EU member states to suspend the issuance of residence permits under investment schemes to all Russian and Belarusian nationals regardless if they are subject to sanctions.

Latvia later announced it plans to stop granting "golden visas" to non-EU citizens in return for making investments in the country.

"We will end this programme," Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins announced on Monday after a meeting of the four-party centre-right coalition government in Riga.

The necessary amendments to the law are to be prepared by the Ministry of the Interior and submitted to parliament for a vote shortly.

The move will mainly target residence permits for Russians and Belarusians, said the parliamentary group leader of the co-ruling party For Development/For!, according to a radio report.

Anyone buying real estate or investing a certain amount of money in Latvia is at present eligible for a five-year Latvian residence permit that also allows them access to both the Schengen area and other EU states.

According to the migration authority, Latvia has to date issued temporary residence permits to over 10,000 Russian citizens. Just under half of these have acquired them through the purchase of real estate. In addition, there are a good 40,000 Russian citizens with permanent residence permits.

Crackdown on EU golden passports over Russian invasion of Ukraine
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