By Uglobal Staff
Investment immigration professionals disagree with a European parliament draft law that aims for a complete ban on RCBI programs in Europe, pointing out the fact that they are not opposed to making the programs more transparent and robust, but they fear that measures like imposing a percentage cut on such investments would be hugely counterproductive to the entire migration industry.
Immigration attorney Silvio Cilia, a founding partner at the Maltese law firm Corrieri Cilia, said that the positive contributions of the residency and citizenship by investment programs to local economies, communities and families must not be forgotten.
“From the economic perspective, CBI programs in general brought a lot of benefits to the communities worldwide; they helped to build infrastructure, they sponsored construction of much needed medical, educational and social facilities and what is rarely mentioned – they created jobs, allowed families to make a decent living,” Cilia said.
He also said the right to grant citizenship to any person was the prerogative of a sovereign nation, especially if it is done responsibly and legally.
“As regards to the legality, it is a competence of each sovereign nation to draw up citizenship legislation of their own; certainly, that has to be done in a responsible manner, ensuring that the highest standards of due diligence are observed at all times, regardless, whether it is a CBI application or any other residency or citizenship application in a given state,” he added.
Irregular migration, not golden visas pose higher risks
Vasiliki Papaloi, who is an immigration consultant and attorney at the Papalois & Associates Law firm in Athens, denied that the Greek investment immigration program is in any way objectionable ethically, legally and economically, and reminded everyone how such programs in fact had helped struggling European economies like Greece.
She said the Greek programs “are working under specific rules and the legislation has been modified multiple times in order to adjust these programs to the local society, economy and laws. Furthermore, in countries like Greece that has suffered a struggling economic crisis inside Europe, these programs have efficiently helped local financial standards, especially in real estate industry, upgrade and offer new chances, jobs etc.”
Italian immigration advisor Alessia Ajelli, an attorney at LCA Studio Legale in Milan, said EU should be more concerned about irregular migration instead of properly regulated golden visa and golden passport programs.
“If well regulated and implemented, I do not think that CBI programs may pose serious security risks. Irregular, uncontrolled and illegal migration represent a much higher risks for security,” Ajelli said.
Members of the European Parliament believe the CBI programs pose serious security risks apart from being objectionable ethically, legally and economically.
Allowing other EU states to object may open pandora’s box
The MEPs also want a "notification and consultation" program to allow other EU member states to object to residency by investment applications by foreign applicants.
Papaloi predicted that any such measure would only end up creating friction among EU states.
“The idea that an EU member state can judge the local legislation of another EU member state is not attractive at all and can cause conflicts and complaints within EU…it is totally not needed and more measures to strengthen EU sustainability should be taken, rather than the opposite,” she said.
“Furthermore, the fundamental values of EU would not permit such an intervention in the members' programs. The members are able to adjust their own conditions for these programs, regarding that the local legislation complies to the common EU one,” Papaloi added.
Ajelli said such a step may create a backlog of applications.
“It may be a good idea depending on the structure and functioning features of the program as it may help screening applications but it shouldn’t create, on the other hand, a backlog that would practically shut down the applications system,” she said.
Percentage cut to EU unjustifiable
Migration industry professionals are also not in favor of a pay out to the EU for every RCBI application. The text of the EU draft law calls for “a meaningful percentage” to be levied on the investments made via residency by investment and citizenship by investment programs.
Cilia said such arbitrary payments to the EU could not be justified.
“This should be accessed in combination with other measures to be adopted, for example, should the EU bodies provide assistance with screening and vetting of the CBI applicants, then it would be justifiable for a percentage of investments to be shared,” he said.
“However, arbitrary payments to the EU for the mere of existence of CBI programs do not seem to have any justification.”
Ajelli said any such measure might end up hurting the Italian residency by investment program.
“With specific reference to Italy, I believe it would make the program even more less attractive in comparison with other EU member states’ programs,” she said.
Papaloi said any such percentage cuts would hurt small economies like Greece the most.
“Greece is relatively small country and came out from an intense economic and social crisis. The investment program of residency has created more financial and professional chances in Greece and different institutions and individuals are hardly working on attracting these investments along with the tourist section, which is fundamental for Greece. A percentage could destabilize the situation while it is totally not needed, also taking into consideration that legislation is controlling enough the investments,” she added.
Draft law set for final debate
The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs approved the draft law on February 15. The draft law is expected to be debated and voted in the parliament in the second week of March.
The text of the draft calls for a phasing out of the golden passports, also known as the citizenship by investment program, and the golden visa, also known as the residency by investment programs. It also demands from foreign applicants stringent background checks against EU systems, vetting in third countries, reporting obligations on member states, increase in minimum periods of physical stay, quantifiable contribution to the economy, a scheme allowing other member states to object to an applicant as well as a ban on marketing of all such programs.
In an official statement released on Feb. 15, Rapporteur Sophia in ‘t Veld said: “Citizenship is a right, not a commodity to be bought and sold. Member states’ governments sell what is not theirs to sell, exploiting the reputation of the EU for profit. Their cynical business is putting our common security in danger.”
The EU estimates that at least 130,000 foreigners have been granted residencies and citizenships via investment immigration programs in member states between 2011 and 2019, according to the statement, which generated 21.8 billion euros in revenue for the countries running the programs.
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