The citizenship report is published every three years. In it, the European Commission tells us what has changed in migration policy and what measures are planned for the future. The full text of the 2020 report is available on the European Commission’s official website.
From 2021, the EU will focus its efforts on:
- simplify customs procedures within the region;
- update taxation rules;
- Protect the interests of its citizens in third countries;
- Combat the illegal issuance of citizenship.
New policies and freedom of movement within the EU
Freedom of movement means that EU citizens can live, work and study in any country in the region without restrictions. Some 13.3 million EU citizens have used this right to move to another country in the region. But they, too, sometimes encounter difficulties in crossing borders.
Difficulties arise because of differences in legislation in EU member states.
In 2020, the European Court of Justice clarified which family members of an EU citizen are entitled to travel around the region without a visa. These include:
Relatives who are not EU citizens. You can travel freely with a residence card from one of the states in the region, although according to the laws of some countries, only EU citizens are allowed visa‑free entry;
minor children – both born and adopted.
The regulations on freedom of movement will consolidate the rulings of the European Court of Justice. The European Commission will revise the 2009 documents to ensure there are no discrepancies in the laws. The amendments to the regulations will also take into account restrictions that may arise due to unforeseen circumstances – as happened with the pandemic in 2020.
In May 2020, the European Commission introduced a unified approach by which countries could impose entry restrictions. The result is an interactive map of the region on the online platform Re‑open EU. Each country on it is marked with a traffic light colour, where red indicates a high incidence of the disease. We talked about this in the article “New rules for travelling in the Schengen area during a pandemic”.
A new strategy for the Schengen area will appear in 2021. The European Commission has set up a Schengen Forum to update customs regulations. For example, there are plans to abolish internal border controls between countries of the agreement.
Biometric ID cards will be introduced in all EU member states by 2 August 2021. The new cards will contain the holder’s photo and fingerprints. Biometric documents are more difficult to forge and electronic verification systems will speed up customs controls at borders. We talked about this in the article “EU countries are changing ID‑cards, Malta is already issuing new documents”.
Multimodal travel planners will make it possible to create itineraries for travel within the European Union when it is not possible to do without a plane or train. There will also be unified online services for buying and paying for tickets for different modes of transport.
Why the EU wants to introduce a single taxation system
2 million EU citizens constantly cross borders because they live in one country and work in another. Countries try to take this situation into account in their tax treaties, but a legal conflict can oblige a person to pay taxes in both countries.
In 2021, the European Commission will create uniform tax rules. The innovations will abolish private agreements between countries, making the system clearer and more transparent for taxpayers.
How the EU protects its citizens in third countries
Before the pandemic, some 7 million EU citizens regularly travelled around the world or lived in countries outside the Schengen area. It is possible to contact the consulate of any EU country in case of need. However, not all countries are equally able to provide consulates in remote parts of the world. For example, in order to arrange a flight to Europe for everyone who asks for help, not just nationals of their own country.
The European Commission plans to develop a unified network of representatives to help EU citizens in third countries. The government will also revise consular protection rules for citizens to ensure that all states in the region are prepared for emergencies and act together.
The future of citizenship and residence programmes for investment
The European Commission believes that citizenship investment programmes violate EU law. In its view, a passport cannot be issued to people who have no connection to the country. Such actions violate the principles of trust‑based cooperation between countries, which Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union establishes.
If the conditions of the programme are violated, EU citizenship can be obtained by the offender. Along with the passport, he would also be able to live, do business and vote in any country in the region, which would have a negative impact on the entire EU.
In October 2020, the European Commission sent a formal warning to the governments of Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria. It demanded the closure of citizenship programmes for investment. Cyprus has already complied, and Malta and Bulgaria have taken the Commission’s recommendations into account in revising their citizenship laws.
The Commission will continue to monitor the issuing of passports for investment to ensure that the law is not breached. Residence permit programmes will continue to operate as before. The main thing is that countries must carefully check foreign applicants before granting them residence permits. We talked about this in the article “European Commission’s opinion on golden visas: will the programmes be closed in 2021”.
How to become an EU citizen
A foreigner can obtain an EU passport through naturalisation. Under the standard procedure, naturalisation can take more than 10 years. But some countries allow applications for citizenship to be made earlier than the standard period. For example, if the applicant participates in a residence permit programme for investments.
Maltese citizenship is granted by naturalisation on the basis of direct investment. Under the terms of the new Citizenship Act, a foreigner first obtains a residence permit, and an application for citizenship can be made after one or three years. If the application is approved, the foreigner invests from 690,000 € and becomes a citizen. We talked about the new procedure in the article “Malta has changed the law: who and how can now obtain a Maltese passport”.
A foreigner with a residence permit in Greece for an investment can apply for citizenship after 7 years, not after 12 years as with ordinary naturalisation. In order to obtain a Greek passport, one cannot spend more than 10 months outside the country during the last 5 years. In addition, the applicant has to pass a language test.
A residence permit in Portugal allows you to obtain citizenship after 5 years. A participant in the investment programme does not have to live in the country, just come for 7 days a year. In order to obtain a passport, it is necessary to prove knowledge of Portuguese at A2 level.
Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent of European citizenship and residence programmes. If you want to become a citizen or resident of the European Union – contact the experts of the investment programmes.