The Malta Independent 17 February 2020, Monday

Malta registers third largest growth in number of persons who acquired citizenship in EU

Julian Bonnici Monday, 9 April 2018, 11:46 Last update: about 3 years ago

Malta registered the third largest growth for persons who acquired citizenship within the EU, despite having the smallest population in the union.

Eurostat figures show that Malta saw a 131% growth jumping from 646 persons who acquired citizenship in 2015 to 1,495 in 2016.

Of the 1,495, the largest number of persons acquiring citizenship in Malta in Russia (33%), followed by the United Kingdom (8.4%) and Saudi Arabia (5.2%). The growth most likely reflects the growing foreign population in Malta and the introduction of the controversial Individual Investor Programme (IIP), which came into force in 2014.

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IIP, which was capped at 1,800 successful applicants and is currently undergoing a consultation process to launch a second round of applications, facilitates the sale of Maltese citizenship to wealthy individuals, who either buy or rent a property in Malta and invest a minimum of €650,000 to obtain a passport, allowing them free movement in the EU, among other benefits. As of November 2016, the scheme earned  €360 million for the National Development and Social Fund.

MEPs and some local politicians have highlighted the unethical practice of putting a price on EU citizenship, saying that the scheme’s safeguards are weak, lack transparency, and that the system has been abused by shady individuals; while the government has long asserted, correctly, that the scheme is approved by the EU Commission.

A published list which contains 2,182 people that became naturalised Maltese citizens has done little to quash these concerns, as it in no way distinguishes citizenship buyers from those who earned citizenship and were not in the cash-for-passports scheme.

The list included over 700 wealthy Russians including Arkady Volozh, owner of Russia’s largest search engine Yandex, Alexey De-Monderik, co-founder of major cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, and Alexander Mechatin, CEO of Russia’s largest private spirits company Beluga Group,

The largest relative increase in citizenship was in Croatia (in 2016, it granted citizenship to 3 times more people than in 2015 – an increase from 1 196 persons to 3 973, or +232%), followed by Greece (the number more than doubled from 13 933 to 33 210, or +138%).

In 2016, around 995 000 persons acquired citizenship of a Member State of the European Union (EU), up from 841 000 in 2015 and 889 000 in 2014. Of the total number of persons obtaining the citizenship of one of the EU Member States in 2016, 12% were former citizens of another EU Member State, while the majority were non-EU citizens or stateless. 

The largest group acquiring citizenship of an EU Member State where they lived in 2016 was citizens of Morocco (101 300 persons, of whom 89% acquired citizenship of Spain, Italy or France), ahead of citizens of Albania (67 500, 97% acquired citizenship of Italy or Greece), India (41 700, almost 60% acquired British citizenship), Pakistan (32 900, more than half acquired British citizenship), Turkey (32 800, almost half acquired German citizenship), Romania (29 700, 44% acquired Italian citizenship), and Ukraine (24 000, 60%  acquired citizenship of Germany, Romania, Portugal or Italy). 

 

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