Corruption of EU nationality law: a perfect injustice

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Infringements highlighted by the EU regarding the sale of golden passports may not be solid in law

By Alper Ali Riza

The golden passport scandal is a misnomer. A passport is proof of nationality, so the scandal is a nationality scandal. Nationality is a much deeper link between the individual and the society to which he belongs, and selling nationality is more obvious than selling a travel document.

Nationality is normally acquired by birth, descent or long residence because each of them suggests a feeling of belonging which binds the individual to the society of the country of which he is a national.

But what if, instead of birth, parentage and long residence, someone buys a nationality from a state ready to sell it? Is it inherently corrupt or abusive of an idea? Most people would say this is obviously some sort of corruption, but of what?

The hour comes the man – or the book. Media Corruption in the Information Age by Dr Edward Spence of the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney, Australia was just published by Springer at the right time to help people understand institutional corruption.

Before going any further, I must declare an interest as Dr Spence is a close friend from Larnaca. We were both at the American Academy in the 1960s and have been friends ever since. So the praise I heap on his book should be taken with a little pinch of salt. Also, I read most of it quickly, focusing on the chapters relating to corruption in general, rather than the main thrust of the book which is the corruption of information by the multinationals Big Tech like Google and Facebook. Dr. Spence’s book is a great tool in the war on corruption.

His thesis is that Big Tech masquerades as platforms beyond the reach of the law when in fact they are media that should be subject to the usual constraints and legal responsibilities of all media institutions.

He castigates their malignant domination of Information as fundamentally corrupt. They wield enormous power as information centers, but are not accountable to anyone. They maintain a fiduciary relationship of trust with their users but, as the Cambridge Analytica case shows, they are not just neutral information platforms on which information circulates, but personal data repositories that they use. illegally for profit while claiming morality.

Dr Spence presents them as institutionally corrupt in reference to the constituent elements of corruption: the covert access and use of power for profit in violation of fiduciary trust. He cites with happy effect Plato’s myth of the ring of Gyges from which he extrapolates the problem posed by corruption, paraphrasing Plato as follows: and punishment? Better to pretend that you are moral and act immoral and corrupt in secret. Plato calls this “a perfect injustice – appearing right when you are not.” Dr. Spence’s short answer is that, according to the ancients, wealth cannot buy you eudaemonia – a kind of perfect happiness that humans seek, consciously or not.

The scenario of the Myth of Gyges is instructive. A Lydian shepherd named Gyges found a ring which he put on his finger and discovered that by turning it he could make himself invisible, after which he went to the palace with a delegation of shepherds to see the king. Then by making himself invisible, he seduces the queen, kills the king and takes full power by becoming the new king. Thus, he was able to act unethically by using a magic ring with full immunity under circumstances of complete injustice.

This is instructive because a kind of ring of Gyges was given to the government of the Republic of China when Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, namely the power to grant European citizenship. According to EU law, any Cypriot national is automatically a citizen of the EU and, as such, can travel freely to all other member states of the European Economic Area without hindrance or hindrance. Most importantly, only Member States are competent to decide their nationality laws and naturalization procedures – the EU has no competence.

Europe is both a playground and a paradise for the rich and infamous around the world. But it is also a stronghold Europe for immigrants and as immigration control has become stricter over the years, the demand for EU passports by those who can afford to purchase a nationality has grown. more acute.

There is now a huge market worldwide for EU passports and where there is a market there are traders and trading nations and Cyprus has exchanged passports for cash with enthusiasm.

So if you are a Russian or Arab billionaire and want to travel freely in and out of the European Economic Area, which includes Switzerland as well as all EU member states, why not purchase a nationality of convenience from EU if there is a country able and willing to sell its nationality?

Selling Cypriot nationality was to become a problem when the government of the Republic of Congo was inevitably infected with corruption and politicians and decision-makers were filmed instantly, as the former speaker of the House of Representatives illustrates. winking. in the act, glass of red wine in one hand, big cigar in the other – a perfect caricature of corruption if any

The fault, however, lies with the EU because its treaties have conferred jurisdiction over nationality exclusively on the Member States. Nothing prevents the EU from turning this into a shared competence with the Member States rather than starting infringement proceedings against Cyprus.

I myself do not believe that infringement proceedings initiated by the EU are founded in law. If a state has exclusive jurisdiction over nationality, then it would be interesting to see how the EU Court of Justice extrapolates an obligation for Cyprus not to sell its nationality to third country nationals. As crass and corrupt as it may sound, it is nothing compared to the corruption of the law if the EU Court of Justice creates obligations where there are none – a perfect injustice indeed!

  • Alper Ali Riza is a Queen’s Advocate in the UK and a retired part-time judge



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