SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Montenegro has launched a programme offering citizenship to up to 2,000 foreigners in return for investment over the next three years to help speed up its economic development, the government said on Thursday.
A passport from Montenegro, an Adriatic country with a population of 620,000 which has joined NATO and aspires to European Union membership, allows its citizens visa-free travel to 117 countries.
The EU'S executive is offering guidance to EU states on how to manage national schemes for selling passports and residency permits to wealthy foreign citizens, despite warnings of money-laundering risks from campaigners and lawmakers.
The scheme by Montenegro to bring in investment in exchange for citizenship sets it alongside 13 other European countries including Malta, Latvia and Portugal.
Under the scheme, potential candidates should donate 100,000 euros ($113,670) for development of poor communities and invest either 250,000 euros into development projects in northern and central Montenegro or 450,000 euros into projects in the capital Podgorica or along the coastline, the government said.
It also issued a tender seeking to hire due diligence agents specialized in checking interested applicants, as well as some audit firms or legal advisers to perform all other necessary checks of interested candidates.
"The programme aims to further accelerate Montenegro's economic development by creating new tourist, agricultural and processing capacities and creating new jobs," the government said in a statement.
($1 = 0.8797 euros)
(Reporting by Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo; Editing by Richard Balmforth)