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Κυριακή, 21 Ιουλίου, 2024
ΑρχικήEnglish EditionGolden Visa: The modern villain of Greece's inflated economy

Golden Visa: The modern villain of Greece’s inflated economy

By Maria Ravani,

If you are an EU citizen, working a normal 9-5 job and struggling to make it through the month… if you are an adult who has been part of the working population for more than three years… or, if you’re living your myth in Greece specifically –as the commercial likes to say– you may have woken up today and wondered: “How on earth am I working more hours per week than any other European (at least according to the recent Eurostat research) and still have to spend even 3/4 of my monthly salary on rent?” Or even better, an existential question: “How can I say that I am financially independent and still live with my parents?”

And although in Greece –like in most European countries– we take our sweet time moving out of our parental house (Freud and other gurus of Psychology would be throwing a fiesta if they were living among us today), it’s really not strange. If you ever had to search for an apartment to rent, you probably came upon some of the most common cases in Greece’s housing market. From “luxurious” apartments that can barely fit one human being to majestic flats with spectacular view, three levels under the earth. And all that of course, at the cost of a little over an arm and a leg, because it’s “in the city center” or “near a metro station”.

Image Rights: Unsplash.com / credits: PhotoMIX Company

Apparently, all that can change. If you are a foreigner with wealth and eager to invest, you can gain residency by investing in the national economy, mostly for a short period of time and sometimes for long-term. Investment can be in one of the following sectors: real estate, business investment, art & culture, investment funds, and national development funds. Countries such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Cyprus offer those so called Golden Visa programs for non-European individuals. Most of these countries have been previously connected with disastrous administrative measures following the economic crisis in 2008 that led many of them even into bankruptcy (e.g. Cyprus). Their COVID era handling was another thorn in each country’s economic history. But by attracting foreign capital, they tried to boost sectors of their national economy such as real estate, in order to have money flow. The experiment was working in most cases until it wasn’t. Now, many administrations, seeing the prices continuously going up, decided to take a step back and set new standards. For instance, in April 2024, Spain decided to end its Golden Visa program due to suspicion of money laundering and its contribution to rising real estate prices.

For the wealthy, there’s sometimes a controversial, streamlined path to securing residency rights. – Investopedia.com

Of course, all the above mentioned conditions (status and wealth mainly) are a must if you want to apply for a Golden Visa. Because if you are a foreigner, but not wealthy, well, then you are kind of unwanted. You are either given the stamp of the refugee or that of the public enemy, or generally treated like the plague. Even if you are a foreigner that is born here, you have to fight for many legal rights. But again, no worries, you just have to excel in something. Like being drafted into the NBA or winning a medal or two in the Olympics. You know –small, easy, and doable things for the majority of the population.

Image Rights: Unsplash.com / credits: Victor

Now, the issue of residency is a worldwide problem for societies. Especially for Greece, after the refugee crisis of 2015. However, this issue goes back in time. From the 90s, when families from post-Soviet Union countries moved to Greece in search for a brighter future and even before that. We can understand, however, that in the complexity of the present, we end up having a double standard administrative system. We invite wealthy foreigners to come and live in our country (but not necessarily work for us) while, simultaneously, fighting against war-driven foreigners, who came here looking for shelter and salvation. The ethical questions that arise are visible for miles away, but for some reason European societies couldn’t be more oblivious.

Today, 94 out of every 100 such visas are linked to property investment… in major cities facing a highly stressed market and where it is almost impossible to find decent housing for those who already live, work and pay taxes there – P. Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain

So what about Greece? The program started in far 2014 (long forgotten years of economic repression and capital controls). If you were a foreigner and invested 250.000€ or more in any business activity in Greece, you were given either permanent or temporary residency. And not only you, but your spouse, your children, your parents and your spouse’s parents. Every five years, the applicants have to renew their visa. It is estimated that due to the Golden Visa program almost 2 billion euros in 10 years poured into Greece’s economy. And apparently, that was how the government managed to save the real estate market back in 2015.

Nowadays, the picture is far from perfect. Some would say we were a little too successful in attracting the rich foreigners. Maybe because of the favorable taxation that our program has (basically the applicants do not have to pay any taxes to the Greek state!), or the quick processing time of the applications (applications are processed and finalized in maximum two months). Our visa is also considered to be one of the cheapest in Europe. The threshold of 250.000€ proved to be particularly low. Many people bought properties in big city centers such as Athens and Thessaloniki or popular touristic destinations like Mykonos or Santorini. As an outcome, rent prices –along with the general cost of living in those areas– took off, leaving other residents of the area struggling to get by. In April 2024, the Prime Minister of Greece announced changes in the economic threshold, in order to somehow control those high prices. By the end of this year, the investments have to be over 500.000€ and especially for Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Santorini the prices go up to over 800.000€. However, until that administrative change applies, foreigners still have time to apply by the rules of the old regime (meaning 250.000€), if they have already found where they would like to invest and deposit 10% of the money by the end of August 2024. And it will be really interesting to see in numbers the results of this last transitional period.

Image Rights: FREEP!K

So, in the case of Greece, while Airbnb poses another contemporary “threat” for the average citizen who tries to search for decent housing, inflation as well as Golden Visa benefits lead to a lethal cocktail for anyone who doesn’t come from wealth and has the “audacity” to search for a house in today’s economic landscape. Now, the most recent regulation by the Greek government may work. Or the absence of certain limits in our Golden Visa program may lead to the failure of these reforms. And with summer approaching and the prices not only for housing but for other services as well continuously skyrocketing, you can’t help but wonder. Is Greece turning into one giant, luxurious resort? And if so, how many Greeks can actually afford “living their myth” here?

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Maria Ravani
Maria Ravani
She is a postgraduate student of the Department of Communication, Media and Culture at Panteion University and has graduated from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Athens. From an early age, she was interested in commenting on topicality and the news process. Her goal is the most accurate and documented briefing of the public on political issues and social phenomena.