SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s parliament scrapped a ‘golden passports’ scheme on Thursday that allowed wealthy foreigners to buy citizenship in the European Union country if they invested as little as 1 million levs ($562,366).
After extensive criticism from the European Commission, lawmakers in the Balkan country ended the scheme, under which more than 100 foreigners, mainly from Russia, China and the Middle East, had obtained a passport since 2013 that enabled them access to all EU countries by dint of Bulgaria’s membership in the bloc.
The cancellation came days after the European Parliament urged the EU to ban such ‘golden passport’ schemes by 2025, and to immediately stop issuing visas and passports to rich Russians in exchange for investments amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Under the approved legal changes, Bulgaria will cancel ongoing applications under the scheme, while its security agency will look into citizenships already granted to check if there are grounds for their revocation.
Brussels has been pushing Bulgaria, as well as Cyprus and Malta, to stop their passports-for-sale schemes since 2019, saying they exposed the 27-member bloc to risks linked to security, corruption and tax evasion.
“With the legal changes, Bulgaria will finally cancel the opportunity to get citizenship against investment, the so-called “golden passports”,” Krum Zarkov, a deputy with the Socialist party, member of the ruling coalition told the chamber.
($1 = 1.7782 leva)
Bulgaria scraps ‘golden passports’ scheme to lure wealthy foreigners
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