A letter received from the EU Commission to initiate infringement proceedings against Malta’s passport scheme is not legal, a state official warned.
This comes after the Brussels institution instated legal action against Malta and Cyprus for their golden passport schemes, which it argues have implications for the Union as a whole.
However, Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Communities Alex Muscat argued that the issue was a sovereign one, and therefore falls outside the competence of the EU.
Muscat told TVM that Malta will respond with a legal letter in the coming days.
Launched by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in 2013, the Individual Investor Programme allowed foreign nationals to purchase Maltese citizenship at a cost of €650,000. Family members of buyers are then allowed to purchase passports at €50,000, a fraction of the price.
The scheme has long been controversial with issues over transparency raising concerns. It has drawn criticism from the EU before. However, this is the first real indication that the EU believes passports falls firmly under their jurisdiction.
IIP has been at the centre of major corruption allegations. Former Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, and Manuel Castagna are all out on police bail over links to kickbacks from the scheme.
Malta has kickstarted plans to change the IIP with a residency programme. However, there is little difference between the two, with the only major difference being that buyers will have to live in Malta for three years before applying for citizenship.
However, It seems it has done little to ease EU concerns. A few weeks ago, an EU spokesperson said that both Malta and Cyprus were under the microscope for their golden passport schemes.
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