Sunday

21st Jan 2018

EU commission prepares legal challenge on Malta passport sales

  • Mizzi: 'This attack on Maltese sovereignty is not right' (Photo: Peter Grima)

The European Commission is laying the groundwork for a legal challenge to Malta’s passport sale scheme despite red lines on national sovereignty.

The EU treaty says decisions on granting citizenship are the prerogative of member states.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But lawyers for justice commissioner Viviane Reding are looking to file potential infringement proceedings on the basis of article 4.3 of the EU treaty, which also says member states must act “pursuant to the principle of sincere co-operation.”

The logic is that if Malta sells nationality to, say, a Russian oligarch, they are, in fact, selling the right to live in all 28 EU countries, putting fellow member states at risk if Maltese due diligence fails to weed out criminals.

EU officials have dug up two files - the Micheletti case of 1990 and the Rottman case of 2008 - in which the EU court in Luxembourg ruled that citizenship decisions must be made with due regard to wider EU law.

They note that the commission cited article 4.3 in recent infringement proceedings on tax reform in Hungary, in which Hungary backed down instead of going to court.

They also note that a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague - the Nottebohm case of 1955 - says that citizenship should only be granted to people who can demonstrate a real bond with their new country, for instance, by living there for a few years before they get their papers.

But Malta is to sell the EU passports after a vetting process of just six months, with no obligation to ever live on the group of Mediterranean islands.

A Reding spokeswoman told EUobserver on Wednesday (22 January) the commission is currently in talks with Malta to settle the dispute in a friendly way.

“She’s not asking to extend the legal power of the commission on who grants citizenship to whom,” the spokeswoman said.

“But we think it’s important to remind member states of the principles that should be taken into account when granting citizenship, which gives you access to full EU citizenship rights,” the spokeswoman added.

The Maltese government could not be reached for a comment on Thursday.

EU sources said it has "indicated a willingness" to discuss the issue with Brussels.

But Maltese MEPs from the ruling centre-left Labour Party in Strasbourg last week criticised what they see as an attempt to bully their tiny country, which stands to make €1 billion from the sell-off.

“This attack on Maltese sovereignty is not right. Malta is no longer a colony,” the party’s Marlene Mizzi said at the time.

Meanwhile, the government is ploughing ahead with the scheme despite its “technical-level” talks with Reding’s people.

It published the legal application forms last Friday and potential new EU citizens have begun dropping in to Valletta.

It is also giving special treatment to the wealthy applicants, who are to pay €650,000 in cash and to buy another €150,000 of Maltese stocks or bonds to get their EU perks.

When Maltese media tried to film a Chinese applicant at Malta International Airport this week, security staff let him into a zone normally reserved for "VVIPs," such as government ministers from other countries, to escape scrutiny.

“The question is: If the government is really going to discuss this with the [EU] commission, then why is it already going forward with the scheme? … The mind boggles,” Jason Azzopardi, an MP from the opposition centre-right Nationalist Party, told this website.

Investigation

Malta's sale of EU passports causes controversy

A British consultancy will make millions for helping Malta to create EU citizens-on-paper, amid questions on conflict of interest and national security.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap