Briefly: Bulgaria offers citizenship to foreign investors

SOFIA — Here’s one way to boost an ailing economy: Bulgaria is offering citizenship to foreigners ready to invest at least $650,000.

Under a newly approved amendment, the candidates would have to invest in a Bulgarian company involved in a high-priority investment project in industry, infrastructure, transport or tourism.

The investors also are required to have had residence status in the country for at least one year.

Bulgaria, which joined the 27-nation European Union in 2007 and is the bloc’s poorest member, is trying to reverse the severe drop in foreign direct investment from $8.5 billion in 2008 to $2.3 billion in 2011.

Bulgaria already is handing out passports to ethnic Bulgarians outside its borders, the main beneficiaries being citizens of Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey — countries with living standards at a fraction of the EU average that are years away from possible membership.

The latest amendments have been criticized harshly by the opposition, and it did not get unequivocal support from the presidency or the Justice Ministry, the two institutions that deal with the issue of granting citizenship.

According to media reports, the Interior Ministry and the security services also voiced concerns about potential risks to national security during a closed-door parliament committee meeting.

The political and economic instability in the Middle East following the Arab Spring revolutions could prompt wealthy citizens trying to escape the region’s troubles to qualify for the citizenship-by-investment program.

ITALY

Center-left votes for premier candidate

ROME — Italy held a primary runoff Sunday for a center-left candidate to run as premier in next year’s election — an important ballot, given that Italy’s center-right camp is in utter disarray over whether former Premier Silvio Berlusconi will run again.

Sunday’s runoff pitted veteran Pier Luigi Bersani, 61, against the mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, 37, who campaigned on an Obama-style “Let’s change Italy now” mantra and attracted many disgruntled Italians back to politics with his call to “scrap” the old political order.

Nearly all polls showed Mr. Bersani, leader of the main center-left Democratic Party, winning the primary, as he won the first round of balloting Nov. 25 with 44.9 percent of the vote to Mr. Renzi’s 35.5 percent.

Even before the polls closed Sunday, analysts were discussing the potential that Mr. Bersani could well be Italy’s next premier.

UNITED KINGDOM

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