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EU citizenship for sale
by Christos Mouzeviris
2014-03-29 11:48:36
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The question of citizenship, nationality and identity is in the news constantly these days, from the recent tensions between Eastern and Western Ukraine to the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence. 

In this regard, one interesting development is the decision of Malta to start selling passports to foreign nationals. 

For the modest sum of 650,000 euros, it is now possible to obtain EU citizenship without ever being required to live in Malta (though applicants are required to invest in Maltese property and buy government bonds).

By flogging passports on the open market, the Maltese government hopes to bring in an extra 30 million euros in the first year alone. Interestingly, Malta is not the first country to grant citizenship to non-EU citizens: Austria, Cyprus, Belgium and Portugal already hand out passports in exchange for investment in the country.  However, Malta is the first country to put a price tag on an EU passport.(Debating Europe).

Interestingly the above "trend" has got even more serious with revelations that Bulgaria is the newest nation to sell passports to non-EU citizens. Non-Europeans can buy Bulgarian and thus European Union citizenship for as little as €180,000 under a scheme operating in Bulgaria, an investigation by The Telegraph has disclosed.(The Telegraph).

These practices by all EU member states concerned,  are outrageous. It seems that after having turned everything in commodities in Europe, the largest market on the planet, we have now just ran out of things to sell. And so we are selling what the whole world wants and is interested to avail from us, the only thing we have left to sell: our citizenship.

passport01_400It is understandable that we are still facing an economic crisis and we need money to rebuild our economies, or at least keep them afloat. Europe needs investments and especially the smaller, or peripheral states are in dire need.

But there is one thing to try to compete for investments and another to put a price tag on a document that will entitle anyone to be not just citizen of that country, but the whole of Europe. Without of course having set foot on this country's soil, or being able to speak a word of its language, or knowing any basic information about its culture, history and life style.

At least some nations like Austria and Cyprus, only hand out passports to people who invest in their country and buy property. We could call this as "facilitation", in order to do business. But such practices open dangerous loopholes that could attract criminals and other dubious personalities in our continent.

Europe will at best become a place for the rich people of the globe, either their wealth is coming from lawful or not practices. If anyone with enough money to spend can get his hands on a European passport, then he can move and settle anywhere in the continent, no questions asked.

The only way to safeguard who is entering our continent, would be stricter regulations and background checks. Provided of course that the responsible authorities in each state, do their work right and exam the background of the potential "buyer" before granting him citizenship.

If this continues, we will transform Europe to a place where the rich will turn it into their playground, invest and make profit, influence local politics; but with what cost to us, the ordinary citizens? If our continent becomes a place for the elites of this world, how could we influence policies that would be beneficial for us and have our voice heard, among such powerful interests?

These are practical issues of course. The other issue with such practices is more of an ethical one. Using the lure of a EU passport in exchange for money and investments, is a degradation to what most people identify with still in our days: nationality and citizenship. Either they are native nationals or naturalized, people still want somewhere to belong, a root where they can branch out and which identifies them.

According to what most people believe, nationality is something that you can not just buy; you either receive it by birth, or you acquire it by the naturalization process, after you lived for a certain amount of time in a country. You worked, paid taxes and have integrated yourself in the society and so you can be part of it.

Now our governments want to scrap this status, but only for the rich people. The poor immigrants will still have to queue long hours out of the immigration offices, trying to get their hands on a visa, that will allow them to work, pay taxes and contribute in the society for the long term.

How low can us Europeans get? Since there isn’t much more to sell, as our governments are already sold to the banks and markets, they now trade with our nationality. Though I believe in living in a Europe of open borders and a globalized world, my citizenship and especially my nationality is something I am proud of and bring always with me when I talk, travel, work or live anywhere in Europe.

The ultra-liberal voices that just do not get why people identify themselves under a nation flag, are of course delighted if not supportive of such development. For them, belonging to a nation is merely an accident of birth and it should not matter. They desire a border-less, nation-less world, where nationalism is banished.

I am afraid that is a utopia, at least for now. People do not want to forget who they are and where they are coming from. They have a deep instinct of belonging in a group, either it is ethnic, religious, social or political in their hearts. They are deeply interested in their history and past.

Even in America, a great melting pot of cultures, people still identify themselves as Jewish-American, African-American, Greek-American, Irish-American and so on. They are American citizens but they all want to hold on to this special set of values that they have inherited from family ties.

And a passport is not just a travel document, as long it describes citizenship as nationality on it. If we want to offer citizenship with a price, then we have to remove the word nationality from our passports and replace it with the word citizenship, which is a different thing.

As long as governments issue passports to their nationals, then such development undermines the value of nationality and what it means to the majority of people. It is deliberate of course and it aims to destroy any sense of nationalism and ethnic identity, turning us all into "citizens of this world".

While I do not necessarily object to this, it is the way they are trying to achieve this that I find outrageous and morally wrong. For me this is a mistaken way of achieving such thing. You can not abolish the instincts of the people, or their heritage that was in the making for thousands of years.

I believe in a Europe of nations, unlike the ultra-liberals that want a Europe without them, people with no identities and ethnicity. The best way to integrate European nations, is not by destroying or erasing our national heritage and culture, but on the contrary empowering it by constant cultural exchanges.

Share our culture with all other nations, thus eventually creating a single one in which every nation will contribute and identify with. It is culture and common heritage that binds people together, not a common currency or a single market, or the "nationality" that is written on your passport.

People with no history or sense of ethnicity are easier to manipulate and more prone to satisfy the lack of identity with consumerism. To close the gap that the lack of ethnic consciousness leaves, people follow trends that are promoted upon them, like fashion, music and products that are marketed towards them. The irony here is that they do so in order to belong and identify themselves with a wider, global community, by doing or having what everyone else has.

In this way we are creating a new kind of global, capitalist culture and identity and that is what the global capitalist elites are trying to do, by working on destroying nationalism and ethnic identity. First in Europe and then the world. And the fact that our governments condone with such thing for investments and money is shameful.

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Panagiotis2014-03-29 23:47:08
Good afternoon cousin,

I read your article about citizenship.

First of all, there is a small detail in the whole process, at least for Portugal: they do not give citizenship straight away, but stay permit. After a certain period of time the permit holder can apply for citizenship.

I definitely agree with you that to award citizenship to someone who is not resident to the country, learn its language, history and culture is outrageous.
Also I agree that the authorities must be extra vigilant with the whole process (criminals), and most important independent for any political pressure to accept dubious applications for "public good".

To be honest the points you make about profits and political influence is already here. Companies can buy/built houses, mall, factories, offices and have operations in EU without their bosses to have an EU residence. Unfortunately, they already have quite a political influence too. As for the majority: I do not think that it is going to change in favor of this type of newcomers.

I believe that citizenship should be something that you want to have and dedicate effort to do it: learn the language, history, customs and live in the country, than been awarded hereditary. For example a person who was born in Australia should not have automatically Greek citizenship, because their parents have it.

Totally agree that up to a point the whole process is unethical if there are poor people who have already found a job in an EU country, to queue and wait hours/days/weeks to get the approval, while others to have faster process. However, this depends on each country to eliminate.

I agree to change nationality with citizenship in the passport. I truly believe it is just a travel document. When the Greek junta deprived Melina Merkouri of her passport she did not stop to be Greek.

I believe the reason for the whole process is economical and not nationalistic. The funny thing is that the first country who thought about it is Hungary, a country outside of the eurozone area, due to extreme economic conditions.

I do not have any update if that idea is going to be successful, in economical sense. However, one thing I do believe is that it will not be enough to overcome the crisis. We need to sit in a table, to overcome our national interests, and to create a truly economical-political union. Because if we do not succeed in the last one the consequences are going to be horrific for everyone (and also for the rest of the world).


Christos Mouzeviris2014-03-30 14:25:06
Thank you cousin for your comments and input. We agree on this.

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