The European Union’s justice commissioner has warned against so-called “golden passport” schemes. These allow foreigners to secure citizenship or residence in a European Union member state if they make a big real estate investment in the country.

Věra Jourová described the programmes as “problematic” and “unfair” – echoing the private concerns of Europe’s intelligence agencies, who fear “golden passports” have been exploited by people with enough money to buy access to the UK and Europe.

As reported by The Guardian, her comments came as Malta and Cyprus were named in a blacklist of 21 nations operating passport schemes that are deemed to pose a high risk of tax evasion. The list was published on October 16 by the OECD, which wants tighter controls.

The two EU member states have already sold citizenship to hundreds of individuals from Russia, China and the Middle East.

Jourová said making money was being put before security. “I understand that citizenship schemes are favourable for the economy. But this is unfair for the people who cannot afford to buy citizenship. And citizenship is something so, so big and so valuable that citizenship for sale seems for me rather problematic.”

She added: “We have legitimate concerns, because if in one country a dangerous person gets citizenship, he gets citizenship for the whole of Europe. Maybe we all have to renegotiate the whole system and the whole competence of Europe. Because there is a contradiction.”

Jourová is due to issue a report recommending much tighter controls on the schemes by the end of the year. At the moment Brussels has no power to ban them, though that may change.