While anti-immigration sentiment has taken hold in the EU in reaction to the continuing wave of asylum seekers, it seems this does not apply to the ‘rich’.
Almost 100,000 residency permits and more than 6,000 citizenships have been given away as ‘Golden Visas’ by EU countries in exchange for investment in real estate.
An unlimited residency permit in Spain will cost you $568,217, a five-year residency permit in Greece costs $284,043 and to become a citizen of the Republic of Cyprus it will cost you a cool $2,272,350.
This is what it costs non-European Union citizens to enter, and stay, in the EU.
Golden Visas eschew bureaucracy
The ‘Golden Visa’ is a simple way for wealthy people to gain residency or citizenship without going through the Schengen Visa procedure or having to live and work for at least five years in a country.
The Schengen Visa is given to foreigners wanting to enter the Schengen Area, which consists of the EU (excluding UK and Ireland), Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. The intrusive and bureaucratic Schengen process includes several security and financial checks and demands a wealth of personal information from the applicants.
Investigations by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed several examples of this.
The Berlin-based think tank Transparency International has also investigated the phenomenon in 2018 under its Risky Business report and found that in many European countries someone can buy citizenship or residence permits in the same way one might buy ‘luxury goods’.
Cyprus alone has ‘lured’ over $5.4 billion in foreign direct investment since 2013, according to Transparency International. After the global financial and economic crisis, the business of passports was and still is an attractive way to flush money back.
The EU gained more than 6,000 new citizens and almost 100,000 new inhabitants with residency permits in the last ten years through the ‘Golden Visa’ programme.
‘Fortress Europe’ - only for the poor?
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, the EU has built more than 1,000 kilometres of walls along its Schengen borders.
The term ‘Fortress Europe’ has become increasingly real.
Since 1990, the European Union border has changed from being a border dividing Europe from within to a line that separates Europe from the outside world.
The investment paves the way, for those who can afford it, to become part of this ‘fortress’.
Getting asylum in the EU has become much harder due to the ‘Buffer Zone’ established by EU leaders and neighbouring regional countries.
The European Union has become increasingly hard to enter for the most vulnerable and needy, but if you can pay, the walls of the fortress quite easily come down.