The government under the technical mandate of Dritan Abazović is planning to offer Brussels a new model of extending the economic citizenship program, according to which the money from the project would be directed exclusively to the repayment of the Chinese loan for the highway. The controversial project was officially completed on December 31, but there is skepticism among the public, Brussels and Washington about the sincerity of such an announcement.
According to the new model, which is currently being developed by the Government, the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Finance, the sale of so-called of golden passports would undergo changes in terms of pouring their money into one giro account, and the collected funds would be, as they claim, directed to the Chinese Exim Bank.
Two sources from the Government announced “that the impression of some European circles, Washington and some of the public that millions of dubious money are coming to Montenegro through this program is not correct”. Such accusations came from the leaders of the Democratic Front, who claim that it is a matter of great corruption.
– This is a program where the origin of incoming money is checked – claims a source from the top of the Montenegrin Government.
The new model would be similar to the one from Malta, where one passport costs 650,000 EUR, unlike the Montenegrin one, where an investment of 250 to 450,000 EUR is required.
Pobjeda announced even earlier that Abazović’s government, in its technical mandate, plans to grant hundreds more honorary citizenships in the next few months, even though that controversial project ended on December 31, 2022.
The basis for the award Is that the project has not been canceled but completed, so there are still 240 applications in the procedure, for 240 applicants and 547 family members who submitted applications by December 31 last year.
– This actually means that in the next few weeks several hundred more economic citizenships could be granted to mainly Russian and Chinese citizens, who were encouraged to apply en masse before the end of the project – a source close to the executive power told Pobjeda.
By deciding not to cancel the project, but to resolve positively the requests that are in the procedure – and of which there are a huge number – the Government essentially bypassed the recommendations of Brussels, which decisively demanded the cancellation of the project through its biggest representatives.
European Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero Hernandez recently reminded of that promise, who decisively said that the promise was “the cancellation of that project by the end of 2022.”
In the information on the implementation of the program, it is stated that, according to the data of the Investment Agency, from the beginning of the implementation of the program until December 30, 2022, a total of 1,112 requests were submitted.
– A total of 807 decisions on admission to Montenegrin citizenship were made, for 244 applicants and 563 for family members. There are another 240 applications in the procedure, for 240 applicants and 547 family members – the government document states.
Prime Minister Dritan Abazović said last week that the Government accepted the EU’s request and that the economic citizenship program ended on December 31 last year. Abazović, however, did not say whether, when and by what decision the government stopped the economic citizenship program.
That the Government will still continue to approve economic citizenships, perhaps on a slightly smaller scale, is confirmed by his words at the Government session that only those requests received by December 31, 2022 will be considered.
Through the economic citizenship program, projects with a total value of 444.32 million euros are implemented in Montenegro.
This can be seen in the information on the activities of the implementation of the Special Investment Program of special importance for the economic interest of Montenegro, which ended on December 31, 2022, and which was adopted by the Government at the last session.
The information states that the introduction of a special program was made in order to develop Montenegro, that is, to attract foreign investments that will intensify development projects in the tourism, agriculture and processing industry sectors, in the entire area of Montenegro, as well as more intensive development of less developed municipalities.
– The government included 16 projects in the list of development projects in the field of tourism. These are planned investments of a total amount of EUR 444.32 million, with a capacity of 2,764 high-category accommodation units. In the business plans of these
Of projects, it is defined that within the framework of their implementation, the possibility of opening 1,847 new jobs will be created – it is stated in the information.
In its latest Report for Montenegro for 2022, the EC repeated earlier criticisms of the economic citizenship program, stressing that the Abazović Government, instead of entering the phase of shutting down this program, reduced the financial criteria, i.e. the bank guarantee by 2.5 million EUR per million euros, for admission under this program, but also added some other privileges to the already privileged applicants for economic citizenship.
– This program creates risks such as money laundering, tax evasion, terrorist financing, corruption and infiltration of organized crime and it should be stopped – says the EC in its general recommendations. In the part where this issue is elaborated in detail, the message is more decisive: “In its fourth and fifth report within the visa suspension mechanism, the EC recommended Montenegro to completely abolish the economic citizenship scheme as soon as possible”.