By Muhamet Brajshori
Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s suggestion that citizenship be granted to foreigners who invest at least 100,000 euros in the country is creating controversy among some who fear the change would create a loophole for terrorists and criminals.
Berisha requested a revision of the country’s citizenship law in early February. The amendments to the law, said the prime minister, would grant Albanian citizenship to foreign citizens who invest 100,000 euros in Albania, and all foreign citizens of Albanian descent.
Critics of the plan say Berisha’s suggestion would boost his own political prospects.
“Berisha, who is originally from a town close to the Kosovo border, has maintained a special relationship with Kosovars and has [their] strong support in amending the citizenship law,” Fatlum Sadiku, a political commentator for various Kosovo news outlets, told SETimes. “If it includes the right to vote, it will increase support for Berisha in the next elections.”
Ilir Gjoni, MP of the Socialist Party, said the proposal will be blocked in parliament.
“The sum of 100,000 euros, which was declared by the prime minister, is a small sum of money, speaking on relative terms, for a terrorist organisation, which can use the territory, its opportunities and spaces, which would enable its members to take Albanian citizenship,” Gjoni told Albanian Screen Television.
Erion Brace, an opposition Socialist Party MP, said that citizenship based on investments would harm Albania.
“What Sali Berisha is doing to Albania is unprecedented — for money, for some more votes in 2013,” Brace told the Albanian daily Shekulli.
Also, the Alliance Red-Black, a civic organisation, favours giving out citizenship to those of Albanian descent but has opposed the investment-based citizenships. They claim that applicants with a criminal activity record should be refused citizenship.
A similar plan came under fire in 2010 in Montenegro, where deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand received citizenship despite pending charges of corruption he faced in his home country.
Berisha said that the modification to the citizenship law will invite more opportunities for investment in Albania.
But Liridon Shefqeti, political researcher from the Kosovo Society for Social Research, told SETimes that offering citizenship for investments could pose problems.
“There are many possibilities that Albanian passports, which may be given out to Albanians abroad, have another personal number which makes it impossible to travel in the EU without a visa, like Serbia does for Serbs in Kosovo. Giving out the citizenship for investments might be a problem, as the EU had a problem with it in Montenegro’s case,” Shefqeti said.
Among the public, however, there is some support for the plan.
Edona Hoti, 20, a Pristina student, said she will apply for Albanian citizenship if the law is put into effect.
“I am really happy because I will be able to move more freely, because Kosovo passport does not offer much freedom of movement, except that verifies my identity as a Kosovar,” Hoti told SETimes.
Artan Maqastena, an Albanian student in Kosovo, said that having citizenship is not just a matter of free travel.
“Finally, I would have a passport that clearly states I am an Albanian. For me it doesn’t mean just to have the opportunity to travel more abroad, but it has to do with my nationality,” Maqastena told SETimes.