Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has shared plans to establish a scheme allowing the country to sell citizenship for foreign investors.
Rama, who was invited to speak at the Global Citizenship Conference in London last month, announced that Albania, a candidate for the European Union, will become another country to sell citizenships and passports to foreigners in exchange for large investments in the country.
Countries such as Malta, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus already offer similar programs that the European Union has condemned despite it being completely legal. EU officials have criticized the programs for acting as entryways that allow criminals to enter the EU, receive Schengen VISAs and travel freely around the union.
Although Rama knew his decision to launch the program would anger the EU, he officially announced plans to launch his own scheme. Speaking at the Global Citizenship Conference in London, Rama said:
“I know there are controversies around this program… I know that when I get back home, I will receive an alert from the European Union about this, but I strongly believe this is what we have to do. There are risks, but in the name of risks we cannot deny to our country, the enormous potential of the program.”
As part of the program, those who earn Albania passports will also receive a “tax holiday” ten years as well as a 6% VAT rate. Since Albania benefits from being part of the Schengen area, passports sold will include Schengen VISAs which grant the person with the freedom to travel across the Schengen area which is comprised of 26 European states.
Albania And The EU
However, Albania’s announcement has faced backlash from EU officials, damaging the country’s prospects of joining the European Union. Back in October, several member countries led by France blocked discussions for Albania and North Macedonia to join the EU, claiming that the countries were not ready to join the union.
In January this year, the European Commission published a report on investor-citizenship programs which highlighted significant risks such as money laundering and tax evasion.
In an interview with Exit News, EU Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova reiterated the risks surrounding the program and called for them to be banned over risks such as “security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption”.
Jourova also warned that countries looking to become a part of the European Union should avoid implementing investor-citizenship schemes, stating: “EU candidate countries should refrain from any measure that could jeopardize the attainment of the EU’s objectives when using their prerogatives to award nationality.”
She added: “The Commission monitors investor citizenship schemes in the context of the EU accession process.”
According to Euractiv, six Western Balkan EU candidates (Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and North Macedonia) are set to meet EU leaders at a summit in Zagreb in May 2020 to discuss membership. Meanwhile, Albania and Macedonia Prime Ministers met Serbian President Alexander Vucic in Serbia last month to discuss plans on creating a mini-Schengen zone consisting of the Western Balkans.