Want to live in Europe? Money talks
By Andrius Sytas and Aija Krutaine
VILNIUS/AMATCIEMS (Reuters) - The dirt track that wends through a Lithuanian forest should, according to records, open onto a vibrant business hub with 99 firms under one roof.
The reality is a deserted gray, two-storey building daubed with graffiti and surrounded by rubbish; the only sound, that of birdsong.
"The first time I saw this building ... I was shocked," said Valentina Siliuk, an officer with Vilnius police, standing outside next to an abandoned rain-soaked sofa. "We've never been inside. It's always been locked when we've come here."
The building and several others are used by thousands of non-EU citizens as the registering address for businesses set up in the country of three million. With 10,000 litas ($4,000) in starting capital, investors get temporary residency in Lithuania and permission to travel across most of Europe.
It is an easier and safer way to move to the region than the journeys undertaken by poor immigrants risking their lives in the hands of ruthless people-traffickers.
Immigration is a hot topic in Europe as the continent recovers slowly from years of economic hardship. Fringe parties are likely to score strongly in elections to the EU parliament next week, many demanding borders be shut to new migrants or numbers strictly rationed.
Yet EU rules mean people are free to move from the poorer east to the richer west of the bloc and thousands from Africa and Asia continue to undertake perilous routes across the Mediterranean sea.
Much less focus is given to the rich. Continued...