The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Malta’s ‘golden passport scheme has to stop’, von der Leyen says

Albert Galea Thursday, 16 September 2021, 16:15 Last update: about 29 days ago

Malta’s controversial passport-selling scheme has to be brought to a halt, European Commissioner President Ursula von der Leyen said in a press conference on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference at the Upper Barracca in Valletta, von der Leyen issued a scathing assessment of Malta’s Individual Investor Programme (IIP) – which she referred to as a “golden passports” scheme.

“In our bilateral we have been discussing the subject of the golden passports and that it is of utmost importance to stop that procedure because we should not forget that the golden passports potentially enable the person to have access to 27 member states in the European Union,” von der Leyen said when answering questions from the press.

It’s a huge blow for the controversial – and currently inactive – IIP scheme, which the Maltese government had hoped to restart in the near future.

It’s also not the first time that the scheme has come under the European microscope, but the Maltese government has continually insisted that the matter of citizenship is a national one, and not one where the EU should dictate what can and cannot happen.

The first round of the IIP scheme came to an end this time last year after the capping of 1,800 applicants was reached.

Amendments to the second round proposed by the government would see only individuals who first manage to obtain a Maltese residence permit will be allowed to apply for citizenship. There are two ways to do this. Individuals can apply after a one-year residency period if they invest €750,000 or more. Applicants would have to pay €600,000 if they apply after a three-year residency period.

A joint investigation, which included the participation of The Malta Independent, titled the Passport Papers exposed how applicants of the IIP scheme used “genuine links” which were tenuous at best to prove their residency on the island, spending an average of 16 days in Malta out of their 12-month residency period.

The investigation also showed how many applicants rented the bare minimum properties, contributing to an inflation of the local rental market as the price of sub-standard accommodation was increased in order to be in line with the minimum requirements of the programme.

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