In recent years, the Caribbean Citizenship by Investment (CBI) schemes have come under scrutiny, especially from European Union (EU) member states, concerning security risks and the integrity of the visa-free travel agreements. Critics argue that these schemes allow for quick and easy access to the EU, potentially enabling bad actors to exploit this pathway, thus posing a security risk to the EU.
However, this perspective overlooks the multifaceted benefits of these programs and the efforts made by Caribbean nations to bolster due diligence processes. This article argues for a constructive approach to resolve concerns while preserving the mutual benefits of visa-free access between the Caribbean and the EU.
CBI Programs are critical to Caribbean self-sufficiency
Caribbean CBI programs have been instrumental in driving economic development in the region and attracting foreign direct investment in critical sectors such as real estate, tourism, and infrastructure. These investments have created jobs, enhanced the standard of living, and supported the diversification of economies historically dependent on a limited set of industries. For many Caribbean nations, CBI programs are not merely financial ventures but essential pillars supporting their economic resilience.
The success of Caribbean CBI programs is largely attributable to the benefit of visa-free travel to the EU for passport holders, underscoring the importance of striking a delicate balance between sustaining this offering in the Caribbean and ensuring it does not adversely affect the EU, which facilitates the foundation for this industry in the region.
EU Concerns and Caribbean Due Diligence
The central concern of the EU regarding Caribbean CBI schemes revolves around the potential for abuse by individuals seeking to evade legal repercussions or facilitate illicit activities within the EU, exploiting the visa-free travel privileges granted to Caribbean citizens. It’s crucial to recognize that Caribbean nations have continuously worked to strengthen their vetting processes, incorporating international best practices and collaborating with global security agencies to ensure that applicants are thoroughly scrutinized.
Despite these efforts, challenges remain, and instances of oversight have been magnified as systemic failures. It’s unfair, however, to characterize the entire CBI framework as flawed based on isolated incidents. Like any system, continuous improvement is necessary, and Caribbean nations have shown a commitment to enhancing their procedures in response to global concerns.
Potential for an EU-Caribbean CBI Partnership
To address the EU’s security concerns without undermining the economic benefits of CBI programs for Caribbean nations, we need a multifaceted approach.
One proposed solution is to increase the investment threshold for CBI applicants, with a portion of these funds earmarked for EU immigration and security programs. This approach serves multiple purposes: It raises the bar for potential applicants, potentially deterring those with less genuine intentions, and directly contributes to enhancing security measures that benefit the EU.
By allocating a portion of the increased investment requirements to the EU, Caribbean nations can demonstrate a tangible commitment to addressing EU concerns. This not only helps to mitigate security risks but also fosters a sense of partnership between the Caribbean and the EU, transforming a potential point of contention into an opportunity for collaboration.
Improving the due diligence processes of Caribbean CBI programs is an ongoing task that requires international cooperation. Caribbean nations have already taken significant steps in this direction, such as implementing biometric checks and enhancing information sharing with international law enforcement agencies.
Further strengthening these efforts could involve deeper collaboration with the EU, leveraging its extensive security apparatus to conduct background checks and share intelligence.
This enhanced cooperation could extend beyond mere information exchange to include training and capacity building for Caribbean nations, ensuring that their vetting processes meet or exceed international standards.
Such collaboration would not only address EU security concerns but also benefit Caribbean nations by bolstering their own national security and the integrity of CBI programs.
Retaining Visa-Free Travel: A Mutual Interest
The retention of visa-free travel privileges between the Caribbean and the EU is of mutual interest.
For the Caribbean, it enhances the attractiveness of CBI programs and facilitates travel and business for its citizens. For the EU, it supports diplomatic relations and economic engagement with an important region. Striking a balance that addresses security concerns while maintaining these benefits is crucial.
The proposal to increase the investment threshold for CBI programs, with funds allocated to EU security efforts, represents a balanced approach to this challenge. It acknowledges the legitimate security concerns of the EU while also respecting the sovereignty of Caribbean nations and their economic interests. This strategy could serve as a model for addressing similar concerns in other regions, emphasizing collaboration over confrontation.
The debate over Caribbean CBI schemes and their impact on EU security is complex, requiring a nuanced understanding of both the benefits of these programs and the legitimate concerns they raise. Adopting a collaborative approach that involves adjusting investment thresholds and enhancing due diligence and international cooperation makes it possible to address EU concerns effectively while preserving the vital economic benefits that CBI programs bring to the Caribbean.
This approach not only resolves current tensions but also paves the way for a more secure and prosperous partnership between the Caribbean and the EU.
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Charles Savva is the founder and Managing Director of Savva & Associates, and is based in Nicosia, Cyprus. He is Canadian-Cypriot and has lived in Cyprus since 2001.
With over 22 years of experience in the Cyprus professional services space, Charles’ areas of expertise include Cypriot tax, international tax planning, and investment immigration.
Since founding Savva & Associates in 2009, Charles has advised extensively in the areas of tax optimisation (personal and corporate), and assisted HNWIs and their families obtain EU citizenship or permanent residency via investment programs.
Prior to founding Savva & Associates, Charles obtained five years’ experience working with two major banks in Toronto, Canada, and was responsible for the Financial Reporting of publicly listed mutual funds. In Cyprus, he has worked for Big 4 accounting firms, as well as some of the largest professional services providers.
He has made numerous presentations at conferences worldwide regarding the uses of Cyprus in international tax planning, and is a frequent speaker at events dedicated to EU investment immigration solutions offering citizenship or permanent residency via investment programs.
Charles holds an MBA degree in Corporate Finance from the internationally renowned Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada, is a UK qualified Chartered Accountant, and a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.
Apart from his native English, he is fluent in Greek.