Saturday

25th Nov 2017

Malta bows to EU 'pressure' on passport sales

  • Valletta: New rules could make the scheme less appealing to foreign millionaires, who now have to live on the tiny islands (Photo: Ronny Siegel)

The Maltese government has introduced obligatory residence into its passport sale scheme under “tremendous pressure” from the European Commission.

The commission said in a statement after talks with Malta's attorney general in Brussels on Wednesday (29 January) that: “No certificate of naturalisation will be issued unless the applicant provides proof that he/she has resided in Malta for a period of at least 12 months immediately preceding the day of issuing of the certificate of naturalisation.”

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.

It added that Malta “informed” it of “its intention to evaluate whether an increase would need to be made to the current capping of main applicants.”

The previous plan was to sell Maltese, and EU, citizenship for €650,000 per head without any need to live in Malta.

The sell-off was to be capped at 1,800 main applicants, who can add children, parents and grandparents for €25,000 to €50,000 each.

The commission noted the deal was “done in good faith.” Justice commissioner Viviane Reding also tweeted that Malta did it in the spirit of “constructive co-operation.”

But the level of good faith is open to question.

Reding’s lawyers had previously prepared potential infringement proceedings against Malta based on the EU treaty and on case law in the EU court in Luxembourg and the International Court of Justice in the The Hague.

The residency obligation is likely to make the scheme less appealing to foreign millionaires who now have to live on the tiny Mediterranean islands before gaining EU rights.

The fewer passports that Malta sells, the less money will also go to Henley & Partners, a consultancy based in the British tax-haven of Jersey, which is handling the scheme in return for a 4 percent cut.

A contact close to the EU talks told EUobserver: “The commission put tremendous pressure on Malta.”

The source added: “I think other EU countries should take note because it represents a significant extension of commission competence over their sovereign rights.”

But, under the terms of the EU accord, it is up to Malta to decide how much time the applicants must physically spend in Malta in order to qualify as having being resident for one year.

"It doesn't mean that the individual has to spend 365 days [in Malta]. But it also doesn't mean that the applicant can choose not to set foot in Malta," Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Maltese opposition, the Nationalist Party, says it might go ahead with its own legal challenge against the programme pending clarifications.

The potential increase of the 1,800 cap is also likely to ruffle feathers.

Muscat had previously promised the scheme would close once the number is reached.

The passport offer has already prompted queries from Chinese, Libyan, Russian and Saudi citizens, as well as Italians keen to take advantage of Malta’s lower income tax.

The British daily, The Independent, reports that a Formula One champion, a pop singer, and a South American footballer have also shown interest.

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.

Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes

The former Bosnian Serb warlord was sentenced to life in prison for committing genocide and war crimes in Srebrenica and Sarajevo. Mladic is still regarded as a 'hero' among some Bosnian Serbs, in a country undergoing resurgent nationalism.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Germany remains 'active' in EU
  2. Work with Israel, Egypt on gas exploration, says Commission
  3. Only seven EU states have 'advanced' stage climate plans
  4. EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries
  5. EU approves joint Irish electricity scheme
  6. German president to launch 'Grand Coalition' talks
  7. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  8. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  9. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  10. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  11. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  12. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition