Latvian parliament mulls ban on residence permits for Russian investors



Latvian lawmakers on Thursday endorsed the nationalist faction's proposal to stop issuing residence permits to Russian citizens in return for investments in the Latvian economy, LETA news agency reported.

The Latvian parliament already rejected similar proposals twice in September, and the coalition was not unanimous in its support for the National Alliance's latest initiative either, but eventually, the draft amendments to the Immigration Law were sent to parliament committees for review, the first step towards their passage in parliament.

The nationalist conservative National Alliance, a junior partner in Latvia's government coalition, is calling for a temporary suspension of the scheme in which residence permits are issued to Russian citizens in return for their investments in the Latvian economy, particularly real estate.

The parliament would be able to lift the restrictions under the proposed legislation.

The National Alliance argued that the foreigners obtaining Latvian residence permits in exchange for investments also acquire certain economic clout, as well as the possibility to influence Latvia's political, social and information processes.

Latvia's ruling centre-right Unity and Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) believe that a debate is needed on the term residence permits, which is why they supported the National Alliance's proposal at Thursday's parliament session to temporarily suspend the issuance of residence permits to Russian citizens and to send the initiative to parliament committees for review, BNS reported.

Augusts Brigmanis, chairman of the ZZS faction in the parliament, told BNS that the debate was necessary considering the Latvian security services' warnings about the possible threats the selling of residence permits may pose to Latvia's national security.

"This information was not so harsh previously, so we believe that it is important to send this issue to the committees for review," the lawmaker said.

Edvards Smiltens, an MP of the Unity faction, told BNS that Unity voted for the National Alliance's proposal in order to provide the opportunity for more detailed discussions and constructive decisions.

Smiltens believes, though, that the problem of residence permits has already been resolved by significantly raising the minimum amount of money foreigners have to invest in Latvia to get the permits.

"According to information at my disposal, property transactions related to the acquisition of residence permits are no longer taking place already now," the parliamentarian said. Enditem