[WATCH] Malta’s golden passports procedure ‘must stop’, EC President warns

The European Commission green-lights Malta’s recovery plan, but von der Leyen sounds warning on golden passports

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meets Prime Minister Robert Abela at Auberge de Castille (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meets Prime Minister Robert Abela at Auberge de Castille (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Key points
•    European Commissioner approves Malta’s €316 million EU-funded recovery plan
•    President Ursula von der Leyen insists that the golden passports scheme must stop
•    Prime Minister says anti-SLAPP bill will be introduced in the coming days
•    Malta's constitutional neutrality will prevail in discussions on EU army
•    Von der Leyen will pay a visit to the Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial in Bidnija

Malta’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RPP) has been formally approved by the European Commission, with President Ursula von der Leyen dubbing it the "greenest plan" approved by the Commission so far.

However, she stood by her criticisms of Malta’s citizenship-by-investment scheme, an issue discussed between her and Prime Minister Robert Abela shortly before addressing the press.

“It is of the utmost importance to stop that procedure,” she warned. “It gives a person access to 27 Member States.”

Von der Leyen added she will be visiting the site at which journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered and pay her respects and speak to the slain journalist's family.

On his part, the Prime Minister announced that an anti-SLAPP bill will be presented over the next few days, to tackle the use of strategic lawsuits intended to burden media with excessive court costs and threats of exorbitant monetary claims.

‘One of the greenest plans approved’ – von der Leyen

Malta’s RRP will see 54% of EU funds dedicated to green objectives. According to von der Leyen, this makes Malta’s plan ‘one of the greenest plans approved so far’.

Abela said that transport decarbonisation will be a key area on which his government will be focused on, with part of the RRP package dedicated to the electrification of private vehicles and decarbonisation of the public service fleet.

READ ALSO: Malta makes tax avoidance pledge in EU recovery plan

Prior to the press conference, von der Leyen visited the Malta Information and Technology Agency (MITA), calling it a hallmark of Malta’s digital future.

“It was very fascinating to see the work done over the last 12 months in improving cyber security,” she remarked.

She was also happy to see that 25% of Malta’s RRP budget will be dedicated towards the digital transition, by helping businesses go digital and promoting a new e-college platform.

The next step for Malta’s RRP is to secure approval from the European Council. Once this approval is granted, the planned reforms and investments can be implemented.

Von der Leyen arrived in Malta on Thursday afternoon and held talks with Abela at Auberge de Castille in Valletta.

The European Commission President handed Abela the documents signalling the Commission's approval of Malta's recovery plan.

Malta will get €316 million in EU grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Von der Leyen was welcomed by the Prime Minister on the runway at Malta International Airport, where she arrived by private jet.

The visit in Malta comes 24 hours after the Brussels chief delivered her keynote State of the Union speech to the European Parliament. In her speech, von der Leyen praised Malta for strengthening good governance.

In a Facebook comment announcing von der Leyen’s arrival in Malta, Abela said the two will be discussing Malta’s recovery plan “at the centre of which is an investment in people” to ensure a better future.