European Commission proceeds with golden passport infringement case against Malta

Last Updated on Wednesday, 6 April, 2022 at 2:31 pm by Andre Camilleri

The European Commission has decided that it will proceed with infringement proceedings against Malta on its golden passport scheme, with the Commission issuing a “reasoned opinion” on the scheme.

The reasoned opinion was sent to Malta on Wednesday, and the government now has two months to reply.

If the reply is not satisfactory, the Commission may the bring this matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

In its reasoned opinion, the Commission said that it considers that the granting of EU citizenship in return for pre-determined payments or investments, without any genuine link to the Member State concerned, is in breach of EU law.

“Investor citizenship schemes undermine the essence of EU citizenship and have implications for the Union as a whole. Every person that holds the nationality of an EU Member State is at the same time an EU citizen. EU citizenship automatically gives the right to free movement, access to the EU internal market, and the right to vote and be elected in European and local elections,” the Commission pointed out.

The Commission noted that the inherent risks of such schemes have once again been highlighted in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

In its recommendation of 28 March, the Commission stressed that Member States still operating investor citizenship schemes need to terminate them immediately. The recommendation also calls Member States to ensure strong checks of investor residence schemes.

Residence permits granted under such schemes to Russian or Belarusian nationals, who are subject to EU sanctions in connection to the war in Ukraine, should be withdrawn immediately, the Commission had recommended.

Malta has been facing infringement proceedings since 20 October 2020, when the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to the country asking to end its investor citizenship scheme and subsequently sent an additional letter of formal notice to Malta on 9 June 2021, following the introduction of a new scheme at the end of 2020.

Malta recently suspended this new scheme for Russian and Belarusian nationals following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but continues to operate the scheme for all other nationals and has continued to staunchly defend it.

Prime Minister Robert Abela in fact has continually said that citizenship is a matter of national competency as he defended the scheme.

The Commission however considers that such a scheme is “in breach of the principle of sincere cooperation (Article 4(3) TEU) and infringes the very status of citizenship of the Union as laid down in the Treaties (Article 20 TFEU),” which is why the Commission had decided to send Malta a reasoned opinion.

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