Brussels action on Malta passport sale has no legal basis, minister says

Parliamentary secretary for citizenship Alex Muscat says Commission infringement on IIP is purely political

Parliamentary secretary for citizenship Alex Muscat
Parliamentary secretary for citizenship Alex Muscat
Brussels action on Malta passport sale has no legal basis, minister says

Malta’s parliamentary secretary for citizenship Alex Muscat has said a letter of formal notice announcing action on Malta’s sale of citizenship to the global elite “lacks any legal basis”.

Muscat said the European Commission’s promise of action on Malta’s Individual Investor Programme, which sells EU citizenship for just over €1 million in cash and property investments, had no basis at law.

“We have been in communication with justice commissioner Didier Reynders for months now.. we have already shown our intention to reply to the letter in the weeks to come: the technical analysis we have is that it is not based on any law. The letter the EC sent us is more political than legal – there is no legal basis for the procedure the EU has taken, because it is Malta that decides who becomes a Maltese citizen,” Muscat said.

Muscat added that he was annoyed at comparisons between the Maltese IIP and that of Cyrus, suspended in the recent weeks following an Al Jazeera exposé showing its Speaker of the House suggesting a way of circumventing its golden passport rules for a client with criminal priors.

“I am annoyed at such comparisons,” he said when asked why Malta does not bow to pressure from the EU and terminate the IIP. “Our standards are completely different from others like in Cyprus… the IIP is nearing its capping and we have now introduced a new residency programme. We’ve learnt a lot from the IIP even though it was a strong programme indeed, but these programmes are attracting a good deal of investment to Malta,” Muscat said.

The European Commission is taking legal action against Malta over the infamous golden passports schemes, with an infringement procedure. Citing infringements against the treaties of the EU, the Commission said the scheme was incompatible with the principle of sincere cooperation while undermining the integrity of the status of EU citizenship.

“Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. As a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the Member States operating them, nor are they neutral with regard to other Member States and the EU as a whole,” the EC said.

The Commission has so far issued a letter of formal notice regarding the citizenship-by-investment scheme. Malta will have two months to reply to the letter, after which if the replies are unsatisfactory a ‘reasoned opinion’ will be issued by the Commission. 

More in National