The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Government snubs von der Leyen’s appeal to stop golden passport scheme

Friday, 17 September 2021, 15:25 Last update: about 28 days ago

Despite an appeal by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for Malta to stop its passport-selling scheme, the government said Friday that citizenship issues fall under the national competence.

The Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the scheme, Alex Muscat, told journalists today that the government still believes it has the power to decide whether to run such programmes.

“We are agreeing that there is a point of principle on which we’re not exactly agreeing,” he said. “We believe that issues of citizenship fall under the national competence. Every country can decide for itself on these issues.”

He pointed out that, just this week, another country that operates a passport scheme removed the two-year residency requirement.

Muscat said the first citizenship scheme operated by the Maltese government – the Individual Investor Programme – proved to be very popular, including with European investors. The IIP, a highly controversial scheme that was recently the subject of a jount investigation by several newsrooms, including The Malta Independent, has since been phased out and replaced by a new scheme that can lead to citizenship.

“Many believe that we only attract investors from outside Europe but this is not the case.”

He assured that investors coming to Malta to apply are subject to the same quarantine regulations as the rest of the population.

Malta’s passport scheme, along with a similar scheme operated by Cyprus, are subject to infringement proceedings opened by the European Commission.

On Thursday, EC chief von der Leyen called on Malta to stop the practice of selling citizenship. Addressing a press conference following a meeting with Prime Minister Robert Abela, she said: “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.”

The government justifies the scheme by saying that it has generated tens of millions of euro, which are used to fund social projects. 

 

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