In a discussion in the plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, MEPs took a stand demanding an end to the so-called 'gold passport' programmes, which exist in 19 member states, stressing that "EU citizenship cannot be traded as a commodity".

In the debate, which was attended by European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the risks inherent in these programmes, particularly money laundering, tax evasion and corruption, insisting that Europe "should not have a quick entry for criminals".

The European Parliament's position comes after the Commission opened infringement proceedings against Malta and Cyprus this week too because of its national golden passport programmes for granting nationality to foreign investors.

The EU executive believes that this attribution of nationality, and European citizenship in return for investment, violates the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in the EU Treaty, as well as undermining the integrity of citizenship status, according to the arguments circulated on 20 October.

In Portugal, there has been a similar 'gold' visa programme for eight years, which provides residence permits to foreign investors, but does not guarantee them citizenship.

The government is expected to end this instrument in Lisbon and Porto by the end of the year, fulfilling the objective of easing market pressure in both cities.

In September, investment raised through 'gold' visas fell by 10 percent compared to the same period in 2019, to 43.5 million Euros.

Between January and September 2020, 993 golden visas were granted in Portugal.

Among the largest beneficiaries are usually investors from China, Brazil and the United States.

In all, there are 19 member states in the EU with programmes such as Portugal, which allow residence for investment.

In the case of Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria, citizenship is granted in exchange for investment.

In January 2019, the European Commission set up a working group with representatives from all EU member states to develop common standards and guidelines in this area.

However, after four meetings last year, the group has not yet met in 2020.