A Dutch politician wants the Prime Minister of Netherlands to take Albania’s plans to start selling citizenship seriously, and to be prepared for taking measures in case the latter starts running the scheme it announced recently.
Pieter Omtzigt, a Dutch politician, a member of the Christian Democratic Appeal and a Member of the Parliament, has tabled ten questions related to Albania’s recently announced plans to start running a scheme that sells passports to foreigners, in exchange of investments in the Western Balkan country.
In his questions addressed to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister, Omtzigt expressed his concern if Albania’s decision to sell passports affects national security, and asked whether the government is willing to urge the European Union again to use the emergency braking procedure for Albania.
He also brought up the wish of the Dutch parliament to stop visa-free travel through Europe for Albanians in accordance with the motion by member Van Toorenburg et al. 3 on the suspension of visa liberalization for Albania via the emergency brake procedure
The question he tabled are as follows:
- Have you read the two articles “Rama to Sell Off Albanian Citizenship in “Fantastically Corrupt” Cash-For-Passports Scheme” and “London ballroom hosts showcase event for “golden passports”?
- Is it true that at a Henley & Partners event in London, Albanian Prime Minister Rama has announced that Albania will sell its passports?
- Is it true that in addition to an Albanian passport, one gets a “tax holiday” or tax exemption of ten years and a VAT rate of 6% instead of 20%? What do you think of that?
- Can an EU candidate country promise special income tax and VAT rates to people who buy a passport?
- How do you rate Albania’s decision to sell passports in view of the fact that Albanian citizens can travel visa-free through Europe?
- Does Albania’s decision to sell passports affect national security? If you cannot provide a clear answer, would you like to contact GISS and have them issue advice?
- Do you remember the wish of the Dutch parliament to stop visa-free travel through Europe for Albanians in accordance with the motion by member Van Toorenburg et al. 3 on the suspension of visa liberalization for Albania via the emergency brake procedure?
- Is it true that the European Commission has assessed that the formal criteria of Regulation 2018/1806 have not been met 4? If so, how is the Netherlands now committed to suspending visa-free travel for Albanians?
- Are you willing to urge the European Union again to use the emergency braking procedure?
- Are you prepared to consult with the European Commission on the fact that the Prime Ministers of two candidate countries (Albania and Montenegro) have indicated that they are going to sell passports because this has consequences for the integrity of the European Union? If so, when will you do this and can you inform the House about this in January?
Albanian Prime Minister & His Plans to Enter the Passport Market
The Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced his plans to start granting foreigners with Albanian passports, in exchange for investments in the country at the Global Citizenship Conference in London held by citizenship advisory Henley and Partners.
At the conference, Rama admitted that he is aware of the EU’s possible stance on the program. Yet, 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, while not specifying the minimum threshold of the investment amount required.
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.
EU’s Non-Supportive Towards Albania’s Citizenship-Selling Plans
Officials of the European Union have implied that the block does not support the plans of Albania’s Primer Edi Rama to start selling Albanian passports to foreign rich investors.
According to the EU Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova, investor citizenship schemes in EU candidate countries raise concerns about certain inherent risks, in particular as regards security, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.
“Due to the prospect of future Union citizenship of the citizens of candidate countries, citizenship of these countries becomes increasingly attractive to investors. This is the case already during the accession process as candidate countries and potential candidates develop closer relations with the EU and can obtain the right for their citizens to enter the Schengen area visa-free for short stays,” she said.
Dutch Attempts to Suspend Visa Liberalization for Albanians
The Netherlands had proposed to the European Union the suspension of visa liberalization for Albanians during the second quarter of the year.
A motion supported by the Dutch Parliament and initiated by MP Madeleine van Toorenburg of the Christian Democrats asserted there is a substantial increase in criminal activities by the Albanian Mafia in the Netherlands. It also said that Albanian criminal organizations are abusing the possibility of traveling through Europe visa-free, this way further expanding their smuggling network.
According to MP Van Toorenburg, there are 6 times more Albanians in the Netherlands than officially registered.
After the parliament supported the proposal, it was sent to the Prime Minister, who passed it on to the European Commission to initiate the Emergency Brake.
The Emergency Brake is a Schengen Visa suspension mechanism, which permits the reintroduction of visas for third-country nationals in “emergency situations”. The suspension can take place with a simple majority of votes by the European Commission for nine months. If no solution is found the suspension can be extended for another nine months.
However, the Commission, after a careful evaluation of the request, concluded that there are not enough reasons to suspend Albania from the visa-free regime.
Albania was granted with visa liberalization in 2010. The visa-free regime with Albania was revised in 2017 by the EU deciding that Albania still meets the conditions for visa-free traveling. Yet, in the same year, France had also threatened that it would reintroduce visas for Albanians traveling to France due to the high number of asylum applications by Albanian nationals.