Brussels cannot decide what we do with Maltese citizenship – Alex Muscat

Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat says passport-for-cash scheme generated €1.5 billion

Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat has insisted Brussels cannot decide what Malta does with its citizenship when addressing parliament on Wednesday.

“We decide who invests in our county. It is our right to decide who is Maltese or not,” Muscat said, reacting to the European Commission's decision to initiate legal proceedings against Malta over the IIP scheme.

Malta will be contesting the commission's stand on the basis that citizenship is a member state competency. The commission has argued that golden passport schemes were allowing individual states to give European citizenship to dubious characters and thus compromising other EU member states.

Muscat said in six years, over €1.5 billion were generated from the scheme. From 2,076 applications filed, only 1,480 were approved, he added.

Muscat said 368 applications were refused at an advanced stage of the application, while 35 were refused at the initial stages.

“Those who want to give the impression that we are allowing everyone to receive citizenship, are wrong. More than 25% have not been accepted,” he said during the parliamentary session discussing the budget estimates for the Home Affairs Ministry.

The IIP programme ended in September and is being replaced by a new scheme requiring applicants to first acquire residency and hold it for a year before being able to apply for citizenship.

Muscat said that under the new residency programme, the scheme will be more exclusive.

“We hope to continue improving on what we already had,” he said.

The parliamentary secretary blamed European pressure on Maltese “who cannot stand seeing investment arriving into the country”.

Muscat said the former commission had agreed with Malta's IIP scheme and its due diligence programme. "Now all of sudden everyone is irked,” he stated.

READ ALSO: Passport-for-cash programme will be shut down, replaced by new residency programme

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