Malta: No reply by European Commission on new citizenship by investment scheme – Alex Muscat

The European Commission has not yet communicated its position on the new citizenship by investment programme, Malta’s Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat said.

Insisting that the new scheme does not need the commission’s approval, Muscat said “the European Commission has not come back with a reply or communicated what it intends to do.” 

The European Commission had expressed its concern over the so-called golden passport schemes because of risks tied to security, money laundering, tax fraud, and corruption.

Speaking to Newsbook, Muscat said Malta is no longer receiving applications under the maligned Individual Investor Programme (IIP) after the government decided to “wind it down.”

The IIP scheme had a 1,800 application ceiling and recent revelations from the Passport Papers, a cache of documents from the passports-for-cash concessionaires Henley & Partners, confirmed efforts by the Maltese government to block public scrutiny of the scheme.

The original programme designed by Henley was intended to make secret the acquirers of these elite passports, with the Labour administration only adding later a residency requirement. While shady characters were awarded a passport, investigations exposed the close relationship between the Office of the Prime Minister and Henley & Partners, and the lack of a genuine link between applicants and Malta.

However, Muscat explained that the IIP has been replaced by a new residency scheme that can lead to citizenship. Under the new system, applicants must first obtain a Maltese residence permit before applying for citizenship.

Individuals can either apply after a one-year residency period if they invest at least €750,000 or €600,000 if they apply after a three-year residency period. Additional requirements include a minimum investment of €700,000 in property or €18,000 in rent annually. 

Despite Muscat’s claim that citizenship is a national competency, last year the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Malta and Cyprus over their citizenship by investment schemes.

In October 2020, the commission said “given the nature of Union citizenship, these programmes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State grants nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes a citizen of the Union and enjoys all the rights associated with that status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the Union, or the right to vote in municipal and European Parliament elections”. 

The infringement procedure is based on the fact that “the granting of citizenship of the Union in exchange for a predetermined payment or investment and without the persons acquiring citizenship showing any real link with the Member States concerned undermines the profound nature of EU citizenship”.

Moreover, in her State of the Union address in September 2020, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that “European values are not for sale”.


Published: 2 June 2021

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