EU Commissioner Vĕra Jourová (left) is pressuring Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to revamp Malta’s IIP
The European Commission demanded Malta revamp its controversial sale-of-citizenship scheme to ensure new Maltese citizens live on the island for at least a year.
“Becoming a Maltese citizen means becoming an EU citizen and gaining the benefits of free movement,” EU Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová said during a visit to Malta this afternoon. “The European Commission must ensure that Malta only gives citizenship to people with a real link to the country and who reside in it for at least a year.”
Jourová’s warning will come as a blow to the Maltese government, which often rebuts criticism at the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) by insisting that the European Commission has no problem with it.
While acknowledging that member states have sovereignty over citizenship schemes, Jourová pledged to continue raising concerns about potential threats posed by the IIP.
Vĕra Jourová (centre) addresses a press conference at Europe House in Valletta
“We must not enable suspicious people to acquire European citizenship through an easy way and use it to launder money or to pose some sort of security threats to the continent,” she said. “We have a legitimate right to require some basic parameters for citizenship scheme.”
She said the European Commission is currently analysing all EU citizenship schemes, including Malta’s IIP, ahead of a detailed report that will be published by the end of the year.
“If it turns out that this assessment isn’t favourable to the Maltese IIP, then I believe we will be able to work hand in hand with the Maltese authorities to improve the system.”
Jourová’s assessment came after she met key players in the industry today, including the IIP’s chief executive officer Jonathan Cardona.
The IIP requires applicants to pay €650,000 to the government as well as to invest in government bonds and to either buy a property worth at least €350,000 or to rent a property out for at least €16,000 over five years. However, it doesn’t require applicants to actually live on the island – a fact that was probed by the BBC alongside Daphne Caruana Galizia a few months before her assassination.