[WATCH] Citizenship-by-investment concerns will be addressed, Prime Minister says

Robert Abela promises that there will be no foot stomping with the Commission over infringement procedures relating to the golden passports scheme

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Prime Minister Robert Abela has stated that government will address concerns raised by the European Commission after receiving notice of further action in the infringement procedures against Malta with regards to the citizenship-by-investment scheme.

Abela said that government will be going ahead with discussions “in the spirit of dialogue”, while making the legal case that citizenship falls under the competence of each individual Member State, and not of the EU.

“We know what the concerns of the Commission are,” Abela told journalists on Wednesday. “There will be no foot stomping with the Commission but instead we will try to convince using persuasion.”

He said that if the case is brought to the European Court of Justice, government will build a legal case in defence of the project.

“I understand that we are one of 27 member states and so Maltese citizenship gives certain rights, and we’re fulfilling our obligation by making sure that every applicant passes through rigorous tests.”

Abela emphasised that the Maltese citizenship-by-investment programme employs meticulous due diligence, while Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat confirmed that the rate of rejection among applicants stands above 40%.

The Prime Minister mentioned that there have been cases where citizenship was revoked even after the application was accepted.

Abela went on to criticise the Nationalist Party, accusing it of sowing malicious sentiment in the corridors of the European Union.

“Those who are in opposition aren’t opposing it because of any moral obligation, but because they know what good this programme has done to the quality of lives of the Maltese.”

He further accused the Nationalist Party of lying to financial services practitioners, telling them that the party will support the citizenship-by-investment scheme while working against the project behind their backs.

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party issued a reaction to Wednesday’s developments on the citizenship-by-investment scheme.

“For years, the Nationalist Party has been appealing to government that when dealing with a delicate matter like citizenship, it must use caution, transparency, sobriety and rigorous processes whereby a person is given citizenship, and it is not bought.”

The party said that the passport scheme “broke the country’s reputation, maintaining that the scheme led people to receive citizenship without scrutiny and without proof of any genuine links to Malta.

“Today, our country is suffering the consequences of the irresponsible behaviour of Robert Abela’s government. The PN is once again calling on government to stop damaging our country’s reputation further.”

However, as an alternative to the current citizenship-by-investment scheme, the PN said that it will agree to a transparent process based on meritocracy after the applicant has met the relevant criteria

This would include having the names of all successful applicants published and open for public scrutiny, as well as ensuring that the applicant holds a genuine connection to Malta.

“The Nationalist Party is committed to ensuring that those who acquire Maltese citizenship comply with European legislation while respecting the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union.”