Latvia will not issue “golden visas” to citizens of Russia and Belarus until June 30, 2023, according to a decision of parliament, DPA reported.
These visas give the right of permanent residence to persons from non-EU countries in exchange for investments in the country.
Latvian MPs have made exceptions for professional or educational purposes, as well as for family reunification. The new provisions tighten the legal requirements for the issuance and revocation of permanent residence permits in the Baltic Republic. Such a document, for example, will be refused or revoked for those who support war crimes. This will also apply when considering the issue of obtaining citizenship.
The migration authorities in Latvia, it has issued temporary residence permits to more than 10,000 Russian citizens. Slightly more than half of them have acquired this right through the purchase of property and a “golden visa”. In addition, about 40,000 Russian citizens have a permanent right of residence in Latvia. The EU has long debated the so-called gold visas, which give virtually all EU countries access to freedom of movement within the bloc. Because of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, the EU called on member states to end the practice of issuing such visas.
EC: Cancel “golden passports” immediately
The European Commission urges Member States to immediately abolish all existing anti-investment citizenship regimes and to ensure that strict checks are put in place to address the risks associated with residency regimes against investment. The Commission has frequently and consistently expressed serious concerns about citizenship and residence schemes against investments and their inherent risks. Today’s recommendation is part of the Commission’s broader policy of taking decisive action on these regimes. The current context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine underscores these risks.
Some Russian or Belarusian citizens who are subject to sanctions or who strongly support the war in Ukraine may have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including the right to travel freely in the Schengen area under these regimes. To address these immediate risks, the Commission also recommends that Member States consider whether to revoke citizenship granted under the “golden passport” regime to Russian or Belarusian citizens on the EU’s sanctions list in connection with the war in Ukraine. Residence permits issued under the right of residence regime against investments of Russian or Belarusian citizens subject to sanctions should be revoked immediately after an individual assessment and following the principle of proportionality, fundamental rights, and national law of the Member States. These measures should apply to Russian or Belarusian citizens who strongly support the war in Ukraine.
Justice and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Didier Reynders said: that European values are not for sale. We believe that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is an illegal practice under EU law and poses a serious risk to our security. It opens the door to corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion. All Member States concerned should immediately end their anti-investment citizenship regimes. In addition, they should consider revoking the “golden passports” already given to sanctioned individuals and others who strongly support Putin’s war.
Commissioner for Home Affairs Ilva Johansson said: The right to travel freely within the Schengen area is one of our greatest strengths. We need strict checks to ensure that this right is not abused. “Golden residence permits” issued to Russian and Belarusian citizens subject to EU sanctions should be revoked. Now, more than ever, facing war, we must do everything we can to ensure that Russian and Belarusian citizens who are subject to sanctions and those who support Putin’s military aggression cannot buy the right to access the EU.
Regimes for citizenship versus investment
Every person who holds the citizenship of an EU Member State is also an EU citizen. EU citizenship automatically gives the right to free movement, access to the EU internal market, and the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in European and local elections. This affects all Member States, and the risks inherent in these regimes have been reiterated in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Today’s recommendation emphasizes that:
– Any Member State that still applies citizenship schemes against investments must end them immediately. Such regimes are incompatible with the principle of loyal cooperation and the concept of EU citizenship enshrined in the EU Treaties. On 20 October 2020, the Commission opened infringement proceedings against two Member States in connection with their anti-investment citizenship regimes. The Commission also urges another Member State to end its regime. In the meantime, two Member States have abolished or are in the process of abolishing their regimes.
– The Member States concerned should carry out assessments to determine whether the citizenship previously granted to Russian or Belarusian citizens subject to sanctions or who strongly support the war in Ukraine should be withdrawn. In making these assessments, the Member States concerned must take into account the principles established by the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning the loss of EU citizenship.
Regimes for the right of residence against investment
Residency-versus-investment regimes increase the inherent security risks, money laundering risks, tax fraud, and corruption for the Member States and the EU as a whole. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has once again highlighted these risks. In a recommendation published today, the Commission invites the Member States to:
– introduce and carry out rigorous checks before issuing any residence permit against investment: the Member States should take all necessary measures to prevent security, money laundering, tax fraud, and corruption risks in right of residence against investment. This includes introducing and carrying out checks related to residence and security conditions before such residence permits are issued, as well as checking that the residence is continuous.
– immediately withdraw or refuse the renewal of residence permits issued under the residence permit scheme against investments of Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to EU sanctions in connection with the war in Ukraine, following an assessment. The same measure should apply to those who strongly support the war in Ukraine or other related activities of the Russian government or the Lukashenko regime that violate international law.
– to suspend the issuance of residence permits under the right of residence regimes against investments of all Russian and Belarusian citizens.
All measures must be implemented in compliance with the principle of proportionality, fundamental rights, and the national law of the Member States. Today’s recommendation is just one element of the Commission’s overall policy of taking decisive action on both citizenship-versus-investment and residence-for-investment regimes. The Commission may take further action in the future if necessary. It is up to the Member States to implement today’s recommendation. The Commission requests the Member States concerned to report on the implementation of the recommendation presented today by the end of May and to keep it informed thereafter.
Anti-investment citizenship regimes allow a person to acquire citizenship based on a significant payment or investment. Non-EU residence permit regimes allow non-EU nationals to obtain a residence permit to live in an EU country for a fee or investment. In 2019, the Commission published a report on the citizenship and residence permit schemes against investments applied by the many EU Member States, outlining existing practices and identifying some of the risks that these regimes pose to the EU, in particular on security, and money laundering, tax fraud, and corruption. Although the conditions for acquiring and revoking national citizenship are governed by the national law of each Member State, in compliance with EU law, the citizenship of a Member State is the only precondition for EU citizenship and access to the rights conferred by the Treaties. The Commission has often raised serious concerns about the anti-investment citizenship regimes and the risks inherent in those regimes and has initiated infringement proceedings against two Member States concerning their anti-investment citizenship regimes.
Residency-versus-investment regimes, although different from citizenship regimes in terms of the rights they confer, pose equally serious risks to the security of the Member States and the EU as a whole. A valid permit entitles a non-EU citizen to reside in the Member State concerned, but also the right to travel freely within the Schengen area. Although EU law regulates the entry conditions for certain categories of third-country nationals, the issuance of residence permits for investment is not regulated at the EU level and remains a national competence. The recommendation presented today does not affect the reception and residence of Russian and Belarusian citizens in the EU on other grounds, such as humanitarian admission or international protection.
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