Shortly after several EU countries refused to start membership talks with Albania and following an initiative of the Western Balkan countries to create their own Schengen Area, now the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama wants to establish a scheme that would enable the country to sell Albanian citizenship to wealthy foreigners willing to invest.
PM Rama, who was invited to speak at the Global Citizenship Conference in London held by citizenship advisory Henley and Partners, announced that Albania will soon become another country in Europe to start granting foreigners with Albanian passports, in exchange of investments in the country.
While similar programs are operated by several European Union members countries as Malta, Spain, Cyprus, and Portugal, the EU is not very happy with them despite that they are completely legal, as several previous reports by NGOs have asserted that such schemes are a door to the EU for the corrupt and criminals.
“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,” Rama said showing he is up to date with EU’s stance on the issue.
He even made a few jokes related to Albania’s communist past and dictators, recalling that during that period Albania took pride on being the only country in the world not to allow anyone to get in or out of its territory, adding that despite that the scheme is ‘risky’, it is still something Albania has to do.
“There are risks, but in the name of risks we cannot deny to our country, the enormous potential of the program,” Rama told to those present in the Global Citizenship Conference in London.
He also said that those who want to get Albanian passports by investing in the country will receive a “tax holiday” for 10 years and a 6% VAT rate, though Rama did not specify the minimum threshold of the investment amount required.
Several EU member countries led by France have blocked the talks on the accession of Albania and North Macedonia to the European Union in October, claiming both countries are not ready to join the block. The decision has sparked reactions not only among EU senior officers but also among Albanian and North Macedonia leaders, who asserted the decision as unjust.
Less than a month later, the Albanian and Macedonian Primers met the Serbian President Alexander Vucic in the city of Novi Sad in Serbia in a bid to create the mini-Schengen zone of the Western Balkans.
Now that Albania plans to start selling passports to wealthy investors through a very much criticized scheme by the EU, as Rama himself knows, the EU will for sure react to the decision. As an Albanian passport grants the holder with the possibility of traveling to the Schengen Area visa-free, any investor would benefit from traveling to the EU without the hurdle to get any visa.
In January this year, the European Commission had published a report on similar programs operated by some of its member states, which report identified risks as money laundering, corruption, tax evasion, and a possibility for criminals to have visa-free access to the EU, coming from passport-for-cash programs.
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