The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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No, dear Labour, the global media cannot be orchestrated

Daphne Caruana Galizia Sunday, 17 November 2013, 11:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

The global media coverage of the government’s decision to sell Maltese citizenship for €650,000 (and a heavily discounted price of €25,000 for dependents) has been relentlessly mocking and disparaging. In the countries which are directly affected – our fellow club members in the European Union, towards whom we have behaved in a most uncivilised manner, totally devoid of esprit de corps – the reaction has been angry and disbelieving.

Did the government expect otherwise? There is an unspoken consensus in the European Union that no member will do certain things unilaterally. True, EU rules allow sovereignty to individual member states on the granting of citizenship, but that is because it is assumed that no member state will do anything quite as crass as sell its passports for hard cash, turning them into a tradable commodity with a unique selling point that is free access to the Schengen area and the right to live and work in all 28 member states.

In selling our passports for cash, the government is not only undermining Malta directly, but also sabotaging our relationship with our fellow member states. It is not surprising that the angriest comments on the Internet, beneath reports of Malta’s decision to sell citizenship, are from Germany, France, Britain and Italy, the countries with the greatest immigration problems and those – well, the first three at least – where most immigrants seem determined to go and live.

Let’s make no bones about it. The government is not selling Maltese citizenship because it wants people to come and live here. That is yet another lie. It is selling Maltese citizenship precisely because it knows nobody who buys it will bother to live in Malta and will move on to London, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm or Berlin. The proof of this is the fact that it has not tied the sale of citizenship to direct investment in Malta via job-creation or even residency. If the government wanted those people to live here, if it really wished to attract what it rather disingenuously calls ‘talent’, then it would have made an address in Malta a requirement. But it has not. Our government actually wants those people to move on into other member states. It wants to take their cash and have them foist themselves onto others. That is exactly why Manuel Mallia, Joseph Muscat and the other hawkers in our government think it such a brilliant idea. They take the money and others carry the can.

Journalists the world over worked this out immediately, not that it was difficult to do so. Malta is taking cash. It is not making residency or investment in businesses here a requirement. Malta is an EU member state. It is in the Schengen area. Maltese citizens do not require a visa to enter the United States of America. Therefore, Malta is selling access to the EU for €650,000 with a visa-waiver to the USA thrown in as a free gift. This is why the international coverage was disbelieving, even mocking. This is why the story attracted the attention of newspapers and news sites in Vietnam, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Russia, Taiwan, and Australia. This is why the story made even local and regional newspapers in Boulder, Colorado and Tampa, Florida, in Sydney and in British Columbia. It is not so much ‘Malta sells citizenship’ as ‘EU member state sells access to EU for €650,000/$865,000’.

The astonishing thing is that the government couldn’t see this coming. Manuel Mallia, Joseph Muscat, Edward Zammit Lewis, Edward Scicluna and Louis Grech actually thought they could sell Maltese passports for cash, in a vacuum, and that there would be no reaction. “We expect no problems with the EU,” the Prime Minister said in Parliament. That is incredible – perhaps not with the organisational structure of the EU, perhaps not with its regulatory bodies, but to expect no problems with individual member states, their press and their citizens was patently absurd. More absurd still was Manuel Mallia’s belief that he could somehow control press coverage by making it illegal to mock the scheme or joke about it, to discuss it in the press or “impart incorrect information” about it. What does he plan to do – pursue editors in Nebraska and Melbourne? You can see the mindset here: it’s still in the box, still Mintoffian, still confined to the island. There is absolutely no awareness that Malta is not locked into an autonomous bubble, that they are no longer operating in a Super One environment and that they are now on the world stage.

But the really amusing bit is this: the attempt to put the word out that the global media coverage was somehow manipulated by the Nationalist Party and, more fascinatingly still, me (such powers – I rule the world). Can these people get any more ridiculous? Because they themselves operate in a narrow cloister of media manipulation, they think that this is how the press works everywhere, and that journalists are unable to recognise a major news story when they see it. They actually thought that an EU member state could sell passports for cash, with no strings attached (to quote several newspapers in various parts of the world) and nobody would sit up and take notice. You know, that’s the most worrying thing – proof positive that the amateurs are in charge.

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