Vanuatu punished for issuing 'golden' passports
For the first time ever, the EU decided to punish an entire country in exemplary punishment for trading in passports that give the right to visa-free entry into the European Union. The small island Republic of Vanuatu, which practices the “citizenship in exchange for investment” scheme, is at risk of becoming the first victim. Next in line are other states that give out “golden passports” for a lot of money.
“Some countries deliberately advertise their citizenship as a way to gain visa-free access to European Union countries,” the EU document said in the documents. “It is often used by wealthy citizens of visa-free countries to circumvent Schengen requirements and checks, including those designed to stop money laundering and terrorist financing.”
Even within the European Union, there are countries that are not too scrupulous are approaching the issuance of their passports – in this regard, according to the BBC, the EU is suing Malta and Cyprus, demanding tougher conditions for granting citizenship in exchange for investment.
As for non-EU countries, it is easier for Brussels to put pressure on them by threatening to cancel the visa-free regime. Until now, the European Union has never applied an extreme measure – the abolition of the visa-free regime, the BBC notes. Now there is the first opportunity to demonstrate the indisputable will of the European Union – and the first victim was the small island nation of Vanuata, whose passport opens the borders of 130 countries. To obtain such a document for a foreigner, it is enough to lay out 130 thousand dollars. In recent years, more than 10,000 such “investors” have become citizens of Vanuatu. The sale of passports, according to Investment Migration Insider, brings almost half of all income to a poor island country. About 40% of Vanuatu's “golden passports” were bought by the Chinese.
The European Union is concerned that among the newly-minted “Vanuatuans” there are people who are on the international wanted list of Interpol, as well as dubious people from Syria, Yemen, Iran and Afghanistan.
“We respect the sovereignty of third countries in matters of citizenship, but we will not allow visa-free travel to the EU to be used as a bait for investments in exchange for a passport,” the European Commission said in connection with the idea to deprive Vanuatu citizens of visa-free entry.
Now if European countries agree to the proposal of the European Commission, then after a two-month transition period, everyone who received a Vanuatu passport after 2015 will lose the right to visa-free entry into the EU. The ban will be lifted if the government amends the rules, the European Commission said.
The European Commission also stressed that it is currently monitoring similar programs or planned golden passport schemes in several other countries, including the Caribbean. and Eastern European countries (Albania, Moldova and Montenegro).
According to the BBC, the global market for “golden passports” is estimated at $25 billion a year. In Europe, a passport costs from 500 thousand dollars (plus there are a lot of bureaucratic “troubles”), but in the island states of the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, a citizenship document can cost much less (100-150 thousand dollars) and without unnecessary delay.