( Five to Six minute read)
The European Union seems incapable of undertaking economic reforms and defining its place in the world.
Citizens feel isolated from the institutions in Brussels and see no way to influence European level decisions.
The EU is one of the motors of capitalist globalisation, the rule that all decisions should be made on the basis of profitability alone.
Over the course of the coming year it looks like it is in for a large dose of turmoil.
The lack of fluency in financialese shouldn’t preclude anyone from understanding what is going on in Europe or what may yet happen.
So let’s have a closer look at what is means to-day to be an European Citizen with a EU passport.
Years ago I had a lovely greed passport. Now I have a wine coloured EU Irish passport.
What is the difference? Globalisation has already deeply undermined national citizenship as a bond between individuals and states.
You could say that EU citizenship provides the most vivid reminder of the radical shift in the meaning of citizenship that made it a more ethically acceptable institution. Non-discrimination on the basis of nationality – the very core of EU law – provides the litmus test for what national citizenship is really about in the EU today.
The primary value of citizenship lies in the mobility rights attached to passports.
Does this appease my lost of my Irish Passport.? Does it make me feel European?
So in some ways the answer to the above questions is Yes.
On the other hand I come from a small Island with a long history and a culture far removed from Europe. So I remain Irish first and European for the sake of Commerce and Peace among nations.
The problem is that the EU passport is rapidly reflecting the instrumental value of free movement rights attached to EU citizenship for the wealthy and mobile global elites.
They are willing to dish out hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain a freshly minted passport in their new “home country.”
That this demand exists is not fully surprising given that this is a world of regulated mobility and unequal opportunity, and a world where not all passports are treated equally at border crossings.
Rapid processes of market expansionism have now reached what for many is the most sacrosanct non-market good: membership in a political community.
More puzzling is the willingness of governments – our public trustees and legal guardians of citizenship – to engage in processes that come very close to, and in some cases cannot be described as anything but, the sale and barter of membership goods in exchange for a hefty bank wire transfer or large stack of cash.
Everybody knows that immigration is among the most contentious policy issues of our times, and recent years have witnessed a “restrictive turn” with respect to ordinary immigration and naturalisation applicants, such as those who enter on the basis of a family reunification claim or for humanitarian reasons.
At stake is the regulation of the most important and sensitive decision that any political community faces: how to define who belongs, or ought to belong, within its circle of members.
Not everyone knows, however, that governments are now proactively facilitating faster and smoother access to citizenship for those who can pay.
Many EU countries offer privileged access to EU citizenship to large populations outside the EU territory on grounds of distant ancestry or co-ethnic identity, obliging thereby all other Member States to admit immigrants from third countries to their territories and labour markets as EU citizens.
Consider the following examples.
Affluent foreign investors were offered citizenship in Cyprus as “compensation” for their Cypriot bank account deposit losses.
In 2012, Portugal introduced a “golden residence permit” to attract real estate and other investments by well-to-do individuals seeking a foothold in the EU.
Spain recently adopted a similar plan.
On 12 November 2013, Malta approved amendments to its Citizenship Act that put in place a new individual investor legal category that will allow high-net-worth applicants to gain a “golden passport” in return for € 650,000.
Under these cash for-passport programmes, many of the requirements that ordinarily apply to those seeking naturalisation, such as language competency, extended residency periods or renunciation of another citizenship, are waived as part of an active competition, if not an outright bidding war, to attract the ultra-rich.
Portugal, for example, offers a fast track for qualified applicants that entitles them to a 5 year permanent residence permit, visa-free travel in Schengen countries, the right to bring in their immediate family members, and ultimately the right to acquire Portuguese citizenship and with it the benefits of EU citizenship. This package comes with a hefty price tag: a capital transfer investment of € 1 million, a real estate property purchase at a value of € 500,000, or the creation of local jobs. The investment needs to remain active in Portugal for the programme’s duration.
Alas, the individual who gains the golden permit bears no similar obligation.
Simply spending 7 days in Portugal during the first year and fourteen days in the subsequent years is enough to fulfil the programme’s requirements.
This is not the only example or anything new: It is more or less wholesale around the world.
Such programmes are found in, among other places, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. Both kinds of programme raise serious ethical quandaries, but the unfettered cash-for-passport programmes are far more extreme and blatant than the traditional investment programmes.
They contribute to some of the most disturbing developments in 21st century citizenship, including the emergence of new forms of inequality and stratification.
So much for the conclusion that “real and effective ties” between the individual and the state are expected to underbid the grant of citizenship.
Since EU citizenship is derived from Member State nationality and determining the latter remains an exclusive competence of Member States, EU law does not provide much leverage against either the sale of EU passports or other policies of creating new EU citizens without genuine links to any EU country.
Citizenship should be considered as the kind of good that money should not be able to buy but earned.
Instead of offering their citizenship for money, democratic states could bestow it on persons who are threatened by persecution or who fight for democratic values as a means of protection or exit option with the provision of earning the right to residence-based naturalisation.
A global market for citizenship status is corrupting democracy by breaking down the wall the separates the spheres of money and power.
However, that monetary investment can be a way of contributing to the common good of a political community and should therefore not be summarily dismissed as a legitimate reason for acquiring citizenship.
That states have legitimate interests in “inviting the rich, the beautiful and the smart” and that investor citizenship is not essentially different from the widespread practice of offering citizenship to prominent sportsmen and –women.
Some states offer citizenship to foreigners who have served in their army or have otherwise provided exceptional service to the country.
There is a broader trend towards relinking citizenship acquisition to social class, which manifests itself, on the one hand, in offering citizenship to the rich and, on the other hand, in income and knowledge tests for ordinary naturalisations of foreign residents.
Why are states putting citizenship up for sale? And what precisely is wrong with easy-pass naturalisation along the lines of the cash-for-passport programmes? Is it the queue jumping? The attaching of a price tag to citizenship? The erosion of something foundational about political membership itself? Or, perhaps, all of the above?
Such programmes are found in, among other places, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. Both kinds of programme raise serious ethical quandaries, but the unfettered cash-for-passport programmes are far more extreme and blatant than the traditional investment programmes. They contribute to some of the most disturbing developments in 21st century citizenship, including the emergence of new forms of inequality and stratification.
Indeed, if a Romanian is good enough to be embraced by British society as equal, subjecting a Moldovan to any kind of tests is utterly illogical: the arguments of the protection of culture, language, etc. are simply devoid of relevance when more than half a billion EU citizens a exempted from them.
The European bosses want to use North Africa and the other countries on the fringes of Europe as a highly exploitative, low wage sweatshop where workers have no union rights and environmental legislation is minimal.
There are two parts to this policy.
The nastiest side of the EU is on the question of migration. Here EU policy has resulted in thousands of deaths in the last decade.
Thousands have died trying to cross the borders that surround Europe.
They have drowned in the Mediterranean and suffocated in the backs of containers. Dozens have died in suspicious circumstances at the hands of immigration police. Tens of thousands more sit in prison camps across Europe, waiting to be deported. At the same time large sectors of the European economy, particularly in agriculture, cleaning and fast food are dependent on the low wage workforce the migrants who manage to cross the border provide.
So Ask me again. Is the EU passport all its made out to be.
Full belonging to a society is thus not subjected any more to an arbitrary approval, putting all the bizarre language, culture and other tests that states subject newcomers to in a very interesting perspective: the very existence of the EU disproves their validity and relevance.
They consist in nothing else but purification through humiliation: the “others’” language and culture is presumed as not good enough and social learning is dismissed, forcing people to waste their time by subjecting them to profoundly disturbing rituals.
The very success of obtaining EU citizenship by a period of probation is the strongest argument against these practices.
It’s not just an understanding of a language that makes you integrate, it’s the core belief is your country, not a Trading Block.
We all know that the EU originally was the Common Market.
Since then it has continuously evolved.
This means is that the EU wants to turn water supply, education, health and refuse collection from being social services provided to all to profit-making enterprises provided to those who can pay.
Surely, zealous free-marketeers will enthusiastically defend such programmes as freeing us from the shackles of culture, nation and tradition and moving citizenship forward to a new and more competitive global age of transactional contracting in which, as Nobel Prize laureate Gary Becker once put it, a price mechanism substitutes for the complicated criteria that now determine legal entry.
So why is it important to understand how citizenship-by-investment has come about?
Because of its large impact on an essential political institution and its success in carving out global mobility corridors through entangled states.
The UK, one of the first states to introduce Investor Visa (with a price tag of £ 1 million or a bank loan from an UK financial institution and personal assets worth 2 million) recently revised this policy as it came to its attention that investors used the capital for investment as security to back up loans and that investments were placed in offshore custody.
May be in 2016 the Flag will change to look like this.
There is one thing for sure, fences or not it will have more than a few new Citizens.
All comments appreciated.