[WATCH] Brussels does not endorse cash-for-passports scheme, European Commissioner says

The highly successful scheme, raking in more than €400 million in revenue, has been expressly shot down by European Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová in replies to PN MEP Roberta Metsola

Věra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality
Věra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

Věra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice has expressly said that "the European Commission does not endorse the cash-for-passports scheme" in an apparent contradiction of what the Maltese government has always said.

She was reacting to a question put to her by Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola, who was criticial of such schemes that sold citizenship to rich foreigners with no genuine link to the EU.

Metsola invoked Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during her speech at the European Parliament, saying that he had boasted of how Malta's passport-sale scheme was the only one with "the official endorsement of the European Commission."

Metsola acknowledged that the European Commission had no power to stop such schemes but asked Jourová to at least say whether the Brussels executive endorsed them.

"I think it was very clear what we wrote, and I will clearly repeat, we do not endorse this system," Jourová said. She had previously been quoted as saying that she was “especially alarmed by Malta’s scheme”.

Metsola said that "however the big lobby tries to sell it, selling citizenship has nothing to do with investment".

The PN MEP decried the scheme for its security and corruption implications, allowing buyers with "no genuine link" to the EU to acquire the rights of a European citizen. 

The EU states with “citizenship by investment” schemes include not only Malta and Cyprus, but also Austria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Portugal. EU member states are free to set their own criteria for citizenship.

Malta charges main applicants €650,000 for their passport, and a mandatory property investment of €350,000 or a five-year lease at €15,000 annually, and an additional €115,000 investment in bonds and stocks.

"As an MEP for Malta and Gozo, I have always welcomed and pushed for bona fide investment, passport sales is not that. Your private plane barely needs to touch down before you hand over the cash and are granted EU citizenship," she said.

Metsola's speech underlined the difference between visas, residence permits and citizenship, saying that the latter was "irrevocable" and she highlighted the fact that all the descendants of the buyer would forever benefit in every member state.

"What people are really buying here are not just passports, they’re buying the irrevocable rights that EU citizenship bestows on our citizens. Rights related to free movement, visa-free travel,  rules related to third-country nationals owning businesses, competition, even rules on voting and standing for elections. And all of this with no genuine link to the Union," she said.

She made reference to the migrant crisis currently plaguing the Mediterranean when many are left stranded at sea before a decision is made as to where the NGO rescue vessels can dock.

Italy isn't allowing disembarkation, and neither is Malta in terms of the 47 migrants currently off the coast of Sicily.

Metsola said the populists were plunging Europe into constant crises because they keep refusing migrants from NGO rescue vessels and that this underlined "the sheer hypocrisy of these [cash-for-passports] schemes."

She asked whether the European Commission continues to endorse the sale of passports. "While I understand that legally your interpretation is such that you are unable to stop it, are you at the very least able to say here that this scheme does not have the endorsement of the commission?"

"No," was Jourová's reply.