Previous posts have noted questions about the market for citizenship (eg gaining citizenship in Australia and other nations by investing on the requisite scale). 'Should Citizenship Be for Sale?' (Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. 2014/01) edited by Ayelet Shachar and Rainer Baubock indicates that
On 12 November 2013 the Maltese Parliament decided to offer Maltese and European citizenship at the price of € 650,000, but implementation of the law has been postponed due to strong domestic and international critiques. On 23 December, the Maltese government announced significant amendments, including a higher total amount of € 1,150,000, part of which has to be invested in real estate and government bonds. Several other European states have adopted ‘golden passport’ programmes. Should citizenship be for sale? In November 2013 EUDO CITIZENSHIP invited Ayelet Shachar of the University of Toronto Law School to open a debate on these controversial policies. Twelve authors have contributed short commentaries, most of which refer to the initial law adopted by the Maltese Parliament.Bauböck comments that
The EUDO CITIZENSHIP forum “Should citizenship be for Sale?” has collected comments representing a wide range of views and some highly original arguments. They can be summarised by distinguishing global, European and national perspectives.
(1) Global questions
From a global perspective, several authors argue that citizenship has become primarily a resource for mobility. Globalisation has already deeply undermined national citizenship as a bond between individuals and states and the sale of passports is just a symptom of an irreversible commodification of citizenship (Spiro). The primary value of citizenship lies in the mobility rights attached to passports. The high price put by the Maltese Parliament on Maltese passports reflects the instrumental value of free movement rights attached to EU citizenship for the wealthy and mobile global elites.
Some authors defend the sale of citizenship by pointing out that it less arbitrary and more transparent than other ways of acquiring citizenship (e.g. Kochenov), while others suggest that giving the ultra-rich privileged access to “global mobility corridors” (Barbulescu) raises concerns about fairness and justice (e.g. Owen). 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 (Paskalev).
(2) European questions
Several comments emphasize that selling EU passports amounts to free-riding on the shared EU assets of free internal movement and external visa-waiver agreements created jointly by all Member States (e.g. Magni-Berton). Investor-citizenship programmes are, however, not the only instance. 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 (e.g. Shaw).
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. Several authors raise, however, the question whether the principle of proportionality established by the Court of Justice of the EU if withdrawal of Member State nationality leads to a loss of EU citizenship could also be applied to national rules regulating the acquisition of citizenship (Shaw, Shachar, Swoboda).
Independently of the issue of legality these authors suggest that the European Parliament is the institution that is best suited for addressing the issue. Instead of asking for intervention against particular Member States, they call for a broader debate on shared principles that ought to guide Member State policies in matters of citizenship.an overview over the main questions raised in our forum.
(3) National questions
Most authors in our forum defend a conception of citizenship as membership in a democratic community. From this perspective, selling membership seems odious in the same way that selling the franchise in elections is (Shachar, Bauböck). Citizenship is considered as the kind of good that money should not be able to buy (Ochoa). Magni-Berton argues, 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. In his view, the high price indicates the real problem, which is artificial scarcity created through exclusionary rules for access to national citizenship.
Authors disagree on whether citizenship acquisition based on purchase or investment is more arbitrary than the common rules of ius sanguinis, ius soli or residence-based naturalisation. Some consider all of these membership mechanisms as essentially arbitrary or discriminatory (e.g. Armstrong, Kochenov), whereas Bauböck defends them as supporting equal membership in intergenerational communities.
From a global justice perspective, “golden residence programmes” that provide investors with privileged access to permanent residence status seem to be just as unfair towards the poor as “golden passport programmes”. From a democratic citizenship perspective, however, the former are less problematic since they maintain a condition of residence and thus a “genuine link test” for access to citizenship (e.g. Dzankic, Shachar, Owen).
Other authors acknowledge that states have legitimate interests in “inviting the rich, the beautiful and the smart” (Kochenov) and that investor citizenship is not essentially different from the widespread practice of offering citizenship to prominent sportsmen and –women (Owen). Chris Armstrong observes that some states offer citizenship to foreigners who have served in their army or have otherwise provided exceptional service to the country. If investors really help to save a country from financial breakdown, offering them citizenship may be justified on grounds of emergency relief. Other authors are, however, sceptical that those who are only interested in additional mobility rights can be made to invest their wealth permanently and productively (Dzankic).
Apart from the lack of a “genuine link” criterion, a global market for citizenship status is also seen as corrupting democracy by breaking down the wall the separates the spheres of money and power. Several contributions argue that 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 (Shachar, Barbulescu, Dzankic, Bauböck, Owen, Swoboda).