Wild About Travel asks, “Ever gazed with envy on the European citizen lines at European aiporst while waitimg in line with a non-EU passport?” (sic)
You may soon be able to obtain one, in exchange for an investing in European government bonds.
The ruling party in Hungary has proposed offering citizenship to anyone willing to invest 250,000 euros in their government’s bonds.
It’s one strategy for rolling over massive government debt, and it’s expected to appeal mostly to wealthy Chinese who would gain the ability to travel freely and live anywhere within the European Union.
While this is not outright sale of citizenship, it’s ‘preferential treatment’ for foreign investors seeking to become Hungarian citizens, it has predictably brought near-universal ire from the rest of Europe.
This initiative was met with criticism. A number of members of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom found the proposal of the Hungarian deputies a “shocking abuse” of their EU membership. Other European countries are hardly likely to be enthusiastic about the actions of the Hungarians. Western Europe has enough problems with immigrants from Asia and Africa and does not need a new inflow of people with passports of a country-member of the Schengen area.
Finally, many in Europe do not like the fact that a large part of the buyers of the Hungarian passports will be the Chinese. At the very least, China is often seen as an economic competitor. Today, the Chinese consider the purchase of part of Iceland that is applying for the EU membership. Now the Chinese will be able to turn the country in the center of the continent into a base for further expansion.
The ruling party is seen as historically nationalistic, so some observers find the proposal surprising.
I wonder, though, whether the easily-anticipated reaction from the rest of Europe suggests that the proposal is more strategic than serious. Hungary seeks a financial bailout from the European Union, but balks at the spending reductions and constitutional changes demanded as a price funds. This move could well be seen as a bargaining tactic, a threat to offer cheap entry into the Union unless their demands are met.
Still, on face the proposal actually strikes me as not unreasonable. The U.S. offers an employment visa with a lower investment than insisted on by Hungary. And there’s a green card path for investors as well.
Someone willing to cough up a quarter million euro investment in Hungarian state debt arguably ‘deserves’ citizenship more than a person born in the country by happenstance that has been benefiting from state borrowing. And why shouldn’t it be this possible to become a citizen?
I’d love to see a parallel focus on humanitarian granting of citizenship. What if the two programs were linked?
(With apologies to Marginal Revolution for the post title.)