Citizenship schemes should be ‘phased out as soon as possible’

Hard not to agree with this recommendation of  the European Parliament:

Schemes which offer citizenship or residency by investment should be phased out as soon as possible, a European Parliament special committee has said.

In a draft report released on Tuesday, the Special Committee on Financial Crimes and Tax Evasion expressed concerns about Malta’s Individual Investor Programme, saying it could “potentially pose” high risks.

Their concerns came following an analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which found Malta could potentially offer a back-door to money-launderers and tax evaders.

Read: Malta at ‘high’ risk of being used for money laundering

Following continued revelations over the past year, including the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, the European Parliament decided to set up a special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance.

After many months of expert hearings, studies and fact-finding missions, the committee presented its findings on Wednesday.

The report, put forward by Czech MEP Luděk Niedermayer and Danish MEP Jeppe Kofod, calls for an urgent reform of outdated and international tax rules.

“Anti-money laundering provisions in Europe are a loose patchwork blanket of EU and national rules. The blanket clearly doesn’t cover all it needs to, and the patches don’t quite line up, leaving loopholes,” Mr Kofod said.

In a statement, the EPP also came out strongly against schemes offering citizenship or residences for investment.

These schemes were being abused and posed a security threat to the rest of the EU, MEP Dariusz Rosati, EPP group spokesman in the committee said.

In his reaction, PN MEP Francis Zammit Dimech said concerns related to proper lack of due diligence meant countries were facing “totally unnecessary security risks”.

Nationalist MEP Francis Zammit Dimech

“This is why we shall keep on insisting on the full and clear disclosure of the names of all persons acquiring citizenship and not try to hide those names from public attention and scrutiny,” he said.

The draft report will be discussed on November 27.

And in other citizenship-by-investment news, this editorial in the Jordan Times regarding recent Jordanian proposals:
The government decided on Sunday to have another look at the regulations governing granting of the Jordanian nationality to foreigners by raising the financial stakes for their eligibility.

Depositing $1.5 million with the Central Bank of Jordan, purchasing no less than $1.5 million worth of Jordanian treasury bonds or even buying stakes in Jordanian companies worth $1.5 million are all well and good revisions, but making the price of citizenship higher does not go far enough. The Jordanian nationality has no price and cannot be measured in US dollars or Jordanian dinars. There must be something much more important and valuable for obtaining the Jordanian nationality.

One would have thought, therefore, that the government would revisit other factors for citizenship qualification that go beyond money. What about having potential citizen take a test, like all countries do when they grant citizenship to foreigners, with a view to determining the extent of their knowledge of the history of the country and its goals and aspirations.

Potential citizens must be also sensitive to the culture of the country, and its regional and international challenges. Above all, there is a need to gauge the extent of their solemn loyalty to the country.

None of these non-material testing grounds appear to figure highly in the process leading to granting citizenship to foreign applicants. And come to think of it, why not invite Parliament to have a look also at the citizenship process for foreign applicants. The people’s representatives need to have voice in this important policy.

Being a Jordanian is a very serious matter and taking it should not be for serving applicants’ immediate needs. Otherwise, the Jordanian nationality would become a citizenship of convenience.

Jordanians at large would want to make sure that no one is contemplating taking Jordan for a ride, to serve their own immediate and perhaps temporary goals. This whole process of granting citizenship to investors requires another look, a look that is deeper and multidimensional.

Source: Citizenship is not a commodity

Activists ‘outraged’ at decision to grant citizenship to investors | Jordan Times

Money trumps gender equality:

Activists on Tuesday lashed back at a Cabinet decision a day earlier to grant investors Jordanian citizenship or permanent residency, claiming that the decision was discriminatory and ignored their long-time demands to allow Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians to pass on their citizenship to their spouses and children.

The Cabinet on Monday set several conditions for individuals seeking to obtain Jordanian citizenship, including a zero-interest, five-year $1.5 million deposit at the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ), or buying treasury bonds valued the same amount at an interest rate to be decided by CBJ and for a period of no less than 10 years.

“This is a provocative decision by the government that allows foreign individuals to obtain Jordanian nationality based on their financial means, while bluntly denying this right to Jordanian women,” said lawyer Noor Imam.

This decision “also comes in favour of rich women, who can now invest and obtain citizenship while the poor do not have this privilege”, Imam told The Jordan Times.

Activists and families of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians have repeatedly demanded full citizenship rights for their children and spouses.

As it stands now, Jordanian men married to non-Jordanian women can pass on their citizenship to their wives and children, a right that is denied to Jordanian women married to foreigners.

Activist Laila Naffa agreed with Imam, saying that “this step should eliminate all the excuses the government has been giving to the women’s movement to deny the right of citizenship to families of Jordanian women who choose to marry a foreigner”.

Government officials on Tuesday defended the decision as conducive to investment.

Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications and Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani said the decision is meant to encourage investment in the Kingdom and boost the national economy.

“Children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians have been granted same treatment and privileges to Jordanians to ease up their lives and this decision to encourage investment will be to the interest of their families as part of the Jordanian society,” Momani told The Jordan Times.

The minister stressed that “this decision only aims to support the economy and eventually everyone will benefit from this step, including Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians and their children”.

“The government is always giving excuses in this case, such as wanting to protect the sovereignty of the country, but now they opened the door to anyone who has money to obtain citizenship except the families of Jordanian women who are married to non-Jordanians,” Naffa stated.

She stressed the priority should be given to “these women who are loyal to Jordan and have raised their children to also be loyal to the state”.

Naffa said that Jordan “missed an important opportunity with its decision to give investors citizenship when they could have taken advantage of the decision to announce the same for Jordanian women instead of discriminating against them”.

Tamkeen Fields for Aid’s (TFA) Director Linda Kalash, said: “The decision for investment is good, but the priority should go to the Jordanian women, and citizenship should not be granted based on financial purposes”.

“This is really outrageous and frustrating. Why can’t Jordanian women pass citizenship to their families like the investors?” Kalash told The Jordan Times.

In 2014, the government pledged to ensure the proper application of the “privileges” the government had granted to children of Jordanian women, provided that their mothers had been living in Jordan for a minimum of five years, for at least 180 days per year.

Some of the “privileges” included providing residency permits, the ability to apply for driving licences and real-estate ownership, as well as the availing of benefits in the educational, health, labour and investment sectors.

However, activists and campaign organisers continued to voice concerns that the government did not fully respect its promises, claiming they are still suffering on many fronts from discrimination and complicated governmental procedures when it comes to issuing the documents as promised.

Individuals and entities, who oppose granting citizenship to family members of these women, particularly those with Palestinian husbands, say such a measure will only lead Israel to implement its “ultimate plan of creating a substitute homeland for Palestinians in Jordan”.

Government figures show that there are 88,983 Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians, mostly Gazans, with 355,932 children within these families registered with the Civil Status and Passports Department.

Palestinians, except Gazans, who became refugees after the creation of Israel on Palestinian land, and those who were living in the West Bank when it was occupied by Israel in 1967, have been granted Jordanian citizenship.

via Activists ‘outraged’ at decision to grant citizenship to investors | Jordan Times

Jordan Tones Down Textbooks’ Islamic Content, and Tempers Rise – The New York Times

Interesting article on one of the challenges facing Jordan:

When Jordan’s school year began last month, educators began noticing tweaks in the curriculum.

Along with the images of women wearing head scarves were a few who went without them. Cleanshaven men appeared alongside drawings of devout, bearded ones. And references to Islam, once sprinkled liberally throughout textbooks and other class materials, were scaled back.

The 70 or so tweaks to Jordan’s textbooks for first through 12th grades are small. The books are still laden with Islamic references: The 10th-grade science text, for example, encourages students to marvel over God’s creation as it discusses evolution.

But they are one of the Middle East’s first noticeable efforts to moderate the school curriculum in hopes of preventing youths from drifting to extreme ideologies.

“It could be a test case for the region,” said Musa Shteiwi, a sociologist who sat on an Education Ministry committee for six months last year to change the textbooks. “All of us in the Arab world have the same problems. We are all entering this battle.”

So far, this modest effort has not gone well. Islamists see it as a threat to their traditional domination of the education system. And among Jordan’s mostly conservative Muslim population, many view the changes as a declaration of war on Islamic values.

“Obama and Clinton’s schools are not for us!” shouted Mahmoud Abu Rakhiya, an Islamist in Maan, a desert town in southern Jordan, at a rally on a recent Friday in late September. In the capital, Amman, around the same time, teachers set a pile of textbooks on fire. A woman in a white face veil shouted: “We don’t need these textbooks anyway! We will teach them what we want!”

Even those who support changes to the curriculum say the government bungled the effort. Jumana Ghunaimat, the editor in chief of Al Ghad, a liberal newspaper that campaigned for a new curriculum, said the changes, introduced without public debate, had antagonized conservative Jordanians.

“I fear that this will not bring positive change,” Ms. Ghunaimat said.

She added, “And today we are in a hard place,” referring to growing fears of extremist violence in Jordan.

The curriculum changes are part of the balancing act that Jordan’s monarchy has long attempted to appease its conservative citizens; the United States, a loyal ally that provides crucial aid; its noisy secular elite; and its influential Christian minority. (Even as the government issued the new textbooks, it arrested a Jordanian writer, Nahed Hattar, for sharing a cartoon on Facebook that many saw as mocking God. Mr. Hattar, 56, a prominent writer from a Christian family, was fatally shot when he showed up at a courthouse on Sept. 25 to face criminal charges of insulting Islam.)

The problem with the previous Jordanian curriculum, advocates for change said, was that Islam dominated every subject, without teaching children about the shared humanity of non-Muslims, including other Jordanian citizens. For instance, Jordanians are taught, “You are a Muslim, and therefore you are moral,” said Oraib al-Rantawi, director general of Al Quds Center for Political Studies, which argued for revisions. “So the question is, what of others? Non-Muslims? Are they moral?”

Source: Jordan Tones Down Textbooks’ Islamic Content, and Tempers Rise – The New York Times