Bulgaria’s new government moved to abolish a much-criticised “golden passports” scheme which offered Bulgarian citizenship in reward for large investments in the country.
The practice, in place since 2013, has made it possible for foreigners to apply for a residence permit and then a passport if they invest a minimum of 500,000 euros ($568,000) in Bulgaria.
The scheme, which also exists in Cyprus and Malta, was repeatedly criticised by the European Commission, which urged countries to abolish it because it created an incentive for corruption and money laundering.
The new cabinet of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov took office on December 13, pledging “zero tolerance to corruption” in the EU’s poorest and most graft-prone country.
On Wednesday, the government approved a proposal by the justice ministry “to abolish the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship by foreigners in exchange for investment,” the government press service announced.
The previous interim administration had alerted the state agency for national security last year about possible irregularities with 47 “golden passports” — a large share of all such documents awarded since 2013.
While the checks are ongoing, the agency found five cases in which passports were awarded for investments in state securities that were sold immediately after the procedure was over.
“The need to abolish the possibility of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship through investment is conditioned by the lack of real investment in the Bulgarian economy as no jobs are created,” it said.
The government’s proposed changes to the citizenship act will now need parliamentary approval to enter into force.