The lesson that I learned back then and how the history (the moral) repeats itself with the Bulgarian (EU) citizenship by investment now

A foreigner in Russia in the 1990’s

The year was 1993 and Russia has just survived its second political crisis. President Yeltsin has used the army to its advantage to remain in power. The Russian society was heading towards the “decade of the oligarchs”. But only a few high ranked politicians knew what was to come…

black caviar in Russia

As a foreigner, I was mainly spending my evenings in the posh restaurants in downtown Moscow, eating eggs with black caviar. There was always live music and crystal clear Russian vodka, to make my evenings unforgettable. Paying $30 for the dinner with my American Express card was watering the eyes of the more beautiful half of the Russian population. And that wasn’t unjustified, bearing in mind that president Yeltsin was still driving his Volga.

The offer

One day back then, a Russian friend of mine came to me in my hotel room and offered me to buy an apartment. He was asking $5000 for an old, but huge property, with direct views towards Kremlin. I thought he was out of his mind. Five grand for a stinky living space in Moscow? I really believed that for a grand I could become a President of the country, if I wanted to. So I politely rejected the offer.

Few days later my friend came back to me and offered me two apartments as a package for $6000. He was desperately trying to get some hard currency, which I was definitely not willing to give him, so I rejected again.

And ten years later

10 years later, each of these two apartments was selling for about $3.000.000 (yes, three million US Dollars). The new Russian rich were throwing money like if there is no tomorrow. I was still digesting the Russian vodka with some black caviar, but the restaurant bill was quite different. And my American Express card didn’t water any eyes anymore.

So what does all that have to do with the Bulgarian citizenship by investment?

Simply put, until now (October 2020), the Bulgarian citizenship by investment was like the good ole apartments in downtown Moscow. Ridiculously cheap and extremely undervalued. And precisely because of that, many were fishing for the best offer to save couple of thousand Euros. Even though they realize that they will get poor service for the sake of those few grands. Now all that is over.

It is over, because the EU authorities had enough. The program of Cyprus is closing and Malta is being sanctioned by the EU Commission. Bulgaria is getting its warning to make the program “compliant”, although no sanctions are being imposed. With that, the Bulgarian citizenship by investment program remains currently the only EU investment citizenship program. But the cost of the program will be completely different from now on.

Those who have waited at the sidelines will now have to pay dearly for their last chance to get EU citizenship. And they will be still very lucky if they can even catch the last train.

The future of investment citizenship

With Bulgaria being the last resort for EU fast-track citizenship, the future seems uncertain. Those who will miss on this opportunity will be left with the exotic non-EU options, such as Montenegro, Vanuatu or Turkey. But without EU living rights, these citizenship programs don’t actually offer much. Except maybe the duty to to serve in the Turkish army and fight in Nagorno Karabach.

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