Government to contest Brussels action on golden passports

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne says government will be contesting the infringement procedure brought forward by the European Commission on Malta’s IIP scheme

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne
Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne

Criticism of Malta’s golden passport scheme by Nationalist Party exponents “did not help” the situation, Chris Fearne said in view of infringement proceedings started by the European Commission.

The Deputy Prime Minister said Malta will defend its position in Brussels, noting that the Individual Investor Programme has already been tweaked to reflect some of the concerns raised.

The EU executive started infringement proceedings against Malta and Cyprus over their golden passport schemes.

Prime Minister Robert Abela yesterday laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of PN MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa for the commission’s decision.

At a press conference with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna on Tuesday, Fearne insisted Malta has good relations with the commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič and will be holding discussions with them on the matter.

“I am convinced and confident that we will reach an agreement with the commission,” he said.

Scicluna added government has always insisted it was ready to revise the system. “The scheme as we know it will finish, and the new scheme will better address the present situation and how one views it,” he said.

But Scicluna also noted that issues concerning citizenship were not with the EU’s competence.

Steward hospitals conession

Fearne also defended the budget allocation of €90 million to the Steward Healthcare deal, despite ongoing talks with the American company over contract obligations.

The deputy PM said patient services currently being offered in the three hospitals under Steward’s management could not be stopped.

He said the government and Steward worked closely together during the pandemic to ensure that all appropriate services are offered in hospitals tended to by the concessionaire. 

He reiterated that talks are underway for the revision of the concession awarded to Steward for the operation of the Gozo General Hospital, St Luke's Hospital and Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Right now, there are discussions between government and Steward Healthcare to address issues flagged by the Auditor General a few months ago that the concession needs to be revised. There is agreement that, in the interest of everyone, the recommendations of the Auditor General need to be fulfilled. Until then… we need to keep honouring this concession until there is a change that states otherwise,” he said.