Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 November 2019

Dubai developer's visa-free travel in Europe offer generates interest in UAE

The Kleindienst Group is giving Moldovan citizenship to anyone who invests Dh5 million in its Heart of Europe project on The World

How The Heart of Europe will look when finished. Courtesy The Kleindienst Group
How The Heart of Europe will look when finished. Courtesy The Kleindienst Group

A Dubai developer has claimed its offer of visa-free travel to Europe is generating major interest among UAE residents.

The Kleindienst Group is giving Moldovan citizenship to anyone who invests Dh5 million in its Heart of Europe project — a cluster of seven islands designed to recreate European living on The World.

Moldova is not a member of the European Union but passport holders enjoy visa-free travel across Europe’s 26-country Schengen zone.

Since the promotion was launched on June 1, two UAE residents have already bought properties, while close to half of the 173 people interested in buying are based here. “Our phones are ringing all the time,” chairman, Josef Kleindienst, told The National.

It is not the first time such schemes have garnered interest here. Portugal’s "golden visa" scheme is also popular in the Middle East, with Arabs and South Asians among the most common applicants. Many UAE residents have also applied for second passports from Caribbean nations. Buyers do not have to visit Moldova to secure a passport and the majority of those interested come from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Vietnam and China. Many want a second passport to make it easier to travel around the world.

The Heart of Europe is cluster of seven islands in the middle of The World — a man-made archipelago of 300 islands just a few kilometres off Dubai’s coast. The islands aim to recreate life on Germany, Monaco, Switzerland, St Petersburg and Sweden. Scores more hotels, waterfront palaces and floating villas dubbed "seahorses" all part of the development. Mr Kleindienst rejected claims one of these floating villas sunk last year and said it was a platform for events that had fallen into the sea. It is claimed the Heart of Europe development will be complete by 2021.

The World was built in 2008 at the peak of the property boom but the financial crash scuppered major plans to develop it.

Work has now restarted, buoyed by the recovering Dubai economy. Of the 4,000 units on the Heart of Europe, developers have sold close to 1,500 and a Dh5m investment could get buyers two hotel apartments there. The development can only be reached by boat and it is not clear when the entire project will be finished.

Last year the group offered free yachts to encourage buyers but the current promotion is expected to surpass sales made last summer.

“We will have somewhere in the region of between 50 to 100 sales,” said Mr Kleindienst, of this year’s expectation. “[Last year] it was less than 20. We see big interest in the Middle East and Asia for a second passport,” he said.

Many European countries offer these types of investments. Three — Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria — give passports to non-EU citizens. The final decision on who gets a passport rests with Moldovan authorities. However, the EU is seeking to tighten rules around the proliferation of such schemes, warning it could reimpose visa requirements if rigorous security checks were not carried out on applicants.

Moldova, with a population of 3.5 million, is one of the poorest countries in Europe. The country is overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture and launched the passport scheme to boost its flailing finances.

“In the case of Moldova, the commission is closely monitoring the impact of the scheme launched in November as it could pose migratory and security risks,” a European Commission spokesperson told The National.

“Appropriate due diligence and security checks should be applied.”

Visa experts also warned that these types of schemes — which are offered around the world — can be a concern. The Netherlands recently asked the commission to suspend visa free travel for Albanian citizens over fears of a rise in criminality.

“Thus the Moldovan citizenship by investment [scheme] will not go unnoticed, in particular after the country started granting citizenship to wealthy investors who do not even need to reside in Moldova even a day,” said Granit Sadiku of www.SchengenVisaInfo.com, an independent site covering visa news from the EU.

Mr Kleindienst, meanwhile, stressed that the final decision to award a passport rests with Moldova but if checks were done rigidly, there should not be a problem.

“[But] we are not the one who decides. We only submit proposals for passports to governments through authorised agents here and make sure they fulfil the obligations.”

Updated: June 20, 2019 05:59 PM

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