Montenegro's government adopted a regulation last week which allows granting of citizenship as part of a programme to spur investments in the country. Expected to come into force on October 1, the plan would enable up to 2,000 nationals of non-EU countries to apply for citizenship, during the next three years.
In order to apply for citizenship, interested individuals can either invest €250,000 in some of the government-approved projects in underdeveloped areas of the country, or €450,000 in projects in better developed locations around Montenegro, business daily Poslovni Dnevnik reported on Monday, citing Montenegro's daily Vijesti.
The government also plans to charge a €100,000 fee to process each application, with fees collected going towards the government's special development fund.
Part of the funding acquired through the programme will also be used to encourage growth of small and mid-sized businesses - mainly by subsidising youth employment and financing loans for businesses - while a portion would be paid into the state budget.
However, the European Union has shown scepticism about the plan, despite the fact that some of its member countries have been offering similar plans for years. Although Montenegro is not a member of the EU, it hopes to join the bloc in the future, and has started membership negotiations in 2012.
"Montenegrin government should carefully consider the issue of economic citizenships, so that this does not create obstacles on Montenegro's path towards joining the European Union," EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, said, in what has been interpreted as a warning about possible abuse of the plan which might allow shady individuals and illegally gained money to enter the country, Poslovni Dnevnik reported.
But in order to dissuade critics, the government plans to hire due diligence agencies and auditing companies to performs checks of interested applicants.
The funding brought by such investors is expected to benefit some of the many projects in the country's tourist industry, which have been developing for years and which show no sign of abating. Only this year, Montenegro will add some 2,000 new beds in four-star and five-star rated properties.
In its 2008 national tourism strategy which laid out plans to develop Montenegro as an upmarket destination, the goal was set for four-star and five-star hotels to account for 50 percent of all tourist capacity in the country by the year 2020. Currently, the proportion is at 32.5 percent.