During his first official visit to Brussels, new Montenegrin prime minister Dritan Abazović – who took office but three weeks ago – appeared to promise a definite end to Montenegro’s citizenship by investment program by the end of the year.
“The government understands the negative comments of the European Commission when it comes to the program of economic citizenship. I think it is clear that the problem will be solved on December 31, when the program will be terminated,” Abazović told media following a meeting with, among other EU dignitaries, European Union Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi on Thursday, according to Balkan Insight.
This is not the first time Montenegro has flagged intentions to discontinue its CBI practice. Indeed, requiems for the program were written more than a year ago following the government’s announcement that it would not renew the program once it expired at the end of 2021. The Montenegrin CIP, however, saw its term extended by another year following an 11th-hour decision by the former administration.
You only live twice
This time, however, a last-minute reprieve appears decidedly less likely; whereas last year, the Montenegrin government had made no explicit assurances to the EU regarding a phasing-out of its program, this year, Prime Minister Abazović’s statements appeared to all but promise and end to it.
Adding to the Prime Minister’s reasons for placating Brussels is a realistic prospect of closing several of the EU’s so-called Acquis Chapters – the criteria prospective EU member countries must meet before they can join the Union – already this year. In Montenegro’s case, 11 of the 35 Chapters are, for all practical purposes, closed. The country will be hoping to close a further number in 2022, particularly Chapters 23 and 24 – which relate to expectations regarding the judiciary, rights, and civil liberties – for which closing benchmarks are expected in the second half of this year.
Abazović also signaled intentions to enhance the program’s vetting standards, particularly for Russians and Belarusians – who have become personae non gratae in a dozen investment migration jurisdictions, regardless of their political affiliations, following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – but stopped short of saying they would be banned altogether:
“There will be additional controls, especially in relation to citizens of Belarus and the Russian Federation. We want to make the whole process more transparent,” said Abazović.
According to government data obtained by Balkan Insight, Montenegro has so far granted citizenship to 108 foreign citizens (it was not immediately clear whether the number included only main applicants or dependents as well), “mostly from Russia and China.”
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.