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Ireland scraps 'golden visa' program

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After the escalation of US-China tension and EU pressures

Η ΙρλανδΙα καταργεΙ το π ρoγραμμα «χρυσor βiζα»

Photo: Reuters

In a surprise move, the product of pressure from the EU, Ireland yesterday put an end to the so-called “golden visa” policy, the questionable political correctness measure that has brought it 1.25 billion euros since its introduction in 2012. Dublin's decision was announced yesterday by the Irish Minister of Justice, Simon Harris, who, speaking to the state radio station RTE, admitted that he had received “strong recommendations”, as a result of which he put an end to the controversial measure. He added, moreover, that despite the success of the program, the government had been reviewing it for some time and finally took into account “a series of reports and findings from international organizations, such as the Commission, the Council of Europe and the OECD”.

< p>Mr Harris recalled that the measure was introduced at “an extremely difficult economic time”, amid the euro debt crisis, and aimed to attract investment with strategic objectives and in the interest of the Irish people. However, it has been the subject of criticism from the EU, which has repeatedly invoked issues of national security. Last year in March, after all, about a month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Commission called on the member states to stop these measures and with them to stop issuing visas to Russians and Belarusians. At the time, he had, after all, expressed concern that perhaps among those Russians or Belarusians subject to sanctions, holders of “golden visas” and “golden passports” could also be included. In the pressures of the E.U. now added to the escalation in US relations with China following the hot air balloon shootings and spying accusations.

As a related report by the Financial Times highlights, the controversial measure has largely attracted ultra-rich Chinese who represent over 90% of the relevant applications approved in the country. Super-wealthy Chinese tycoons have used it to ensure their ability to stay inside Europe and thus avoid the strict rules imposed by Beijing at various levels. Commenting on the specific issue, the Chinese head of an Irish investment fund, which has directed “golden visa” investments in the hotel sector, expressed his assessment that “the recent developments in China's relations with the West and what happened with the spy balloons were decisive in taking this decision from Dublin”.

In this case, Ireland's program was open to those foreigners who were able to invest at least €2 million in the country. It gave them the option of investing for at least three years €1 million in an approved fund or €2 million in a property investment fund within Ireland.

Alternatively those interested could donate €500,000 or €400,000 if there were at least five consecutive applications for investment programs of artistic or sports content, in the field of Health, Education or Culture. This latter option has benefited many sports teams.

It did not, however, offer a passport to foreign investors and all it required of them in order not to lose their “golden visa” was to spend one day a year in Ireland. Ireland was a tempting choice for many of those interested in a “golden visa”, as the corresponding programs in other countries presented some difficulties and some problems. Britain, for example, ceased to be an attractive destination after Brexit, long before London decided to end the corresponding program in February last year again citing national security issues. As for the relevant US program, it had been “frozen” for many months. Speaking to the Financial Times, Armand Arton, managing director of investment firm Arton Capital, which specializes in citizenship-by-investment schemes, said Ireland's decision “fits directly into the deterioration of East-West relations” while reflecting “the legitimate concern that dramatic increase in Chinese presence in European economies”. He pointed out, after all, that the program in question had developed into a source of stable income for Ireland and “it remains to be seen how the resulting gap will be filled”. He also emphasized that the government should weigh the cost that the termination of the measure will have on the country's economy in the current difficult situation and counterbalance it with any benefits that its abolition will offer.

Source: www.kathimerini.com.cy

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