Cyprus granted citizenship to 2,900 people in 2019, the European statistical service said on Monday, as 706,400 people in total obtained an EU passport, a 5 per cent rise on the previous year.

According to Eurostat, 2,900 individuals were granted citizenship by Cyprus in 2019 compared with 3,200 the previous year, 3,700 in 2017, 3,100 in 2016, and 2,400 in 2015.

Cyprus was among the countries with the highest number of citizenships granted in relation to its population, Eurostat said.

The highest number of citizenships were granted by Luxembourg, 9.1 per thousand persons, followed by Sweden with 6.2, Belgium, 3.5, and Cyprus, 3.2.

Cyprus’ high figures were almost certainly boosted by its controversial citizenship by investment programme, which the government was forced to terminate last year following a string of damning reports.

The overall rise in the EU was mainly caused by the increases in absolute terms in Germany (15,200 more people were granted German citizenship than in 2018), followed by Italy (14,500), Spain (8,200), the Netherlands (6,300) and Belgium (4,400).

The largest drops in absolute terms were observed in Greece (16,300 in 2019, or 11,500 fewer people compared with 2018), followed by Ireland (2,400), Luxembourg (1,300) and Denmark (1,100).

The naturalisation rate is the ratio of the number of persons who acquired the citizenship of a country during a year over the stock of foreign residents in the same country at the beginning of the year.

At the opposite end of the scale, naturalisation rates below one citizenship acquisition per 100 resident foreigners were recorded in Lithuania (0.2), Denmark (0.3), Estonia (0.4), Czechia (0.5), Latvia (0.6), Austria (0.7), Bulgaria and Slovakia (0.8 each) as well as Malta and Ireland (0.9 each). In Cyprus this rate was 1.84 and in Greece 1.96.

The majority of those who obtained the citizenship of an EU Member State in 2019 were previously citizens of a non-EU country or stateless, while former citizens of another EU Member State accounted for 13 per cent of the total number of citizenships acquired.