Bulgaria's golden passport scheme has failed to attract foreign investment in the country as, in the past eight years, only 98 foreigners bought Bulgarian passports.
Foreigners can obtain a Bulgarian passport if they invest €500,000 in a Bulgarian company which implements a priority project for the state. The other option is to have resided legally on Bulgarian territory for one year and to having made an investment of one million euros. Buying government securities counts as an investment.
An investigation by EURACTIV Bulgaria shows that Bulgarian citizenship scheme has resulted in marginal profits while opening the EU doors to fraudsters. The scheme is attractive to citizens of the Russian Federation, the Middle East and North Africa, sources told EURACTIV.
Last year, the EU Commission told EU states to tighten checks on non-EU nationals who acquired citizenship through investments. Malta and Bulgaria and Cyprus have been in the EU Commission's crosshairs for their schemes.
The commission said the programme could be abused and used for tax evasion and money-laundering.
It added that applicants could acquire citizenship of Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria - and hence EU citizenship - "without ever having resided in practice in the member state".
Minister of Justice Desislava Ahladova informed the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders that Bulgaria has taken legislative measures to abolish the process of obtaining Bulgarian citizenship in return for investment. The necessary amendments to the law on Bulgarian citizenship have been submitted to parliament, Ahladova said.
EU citizens can move easily throughout the bloc, as well as live and work in another member state without the bureaucratic hurdles that non-EU nationals face.
Some other EU states and the UK offer "golden" residence visas in exchange for large investments.