Saturday

8th May 2021

'Golden Passports': Malta takes 67 days to respond to EU

  • The European Commission has launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta over the issue of selling citizenship in return for investments (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Two dozen letters have been exchanged between the European Commission and Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta over their controversial 'Golden Passport' schemes, by which rich foreigners can gain EU citizenship for large sums of money.

The letters - sent over the past 12 months - offer a fresh insight into how the European Commission is trying to clamp down on a scheme it says violates EU rules.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It also shows how slow some of the states are to respond to the inquiries - with Malta taking 67 days to respond to the commission's first letter, followed by 42 days for Cyprus.

For its part, Bulgaria sent a letter in October 2019 to the European Commission, which responded a month letter.

Six were exchanged with Bulgaria and nine each with Cyprus and Malta, spanning October 2019 to October 2020.

The issue has recently landed Cyprus and Malta with the possibility of facing the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg over the passport sales, which critics say attract people with criminal backgrounds.

An Al Jazeera investigation last month revealed senior Cypriot officials discussing ways to provide citizenship to a convicted criminal.

The media network published 1,400 leaked documents showing how Cyprus allowed fugitives to obtain Cypriot - and thus EU - citizenship.

Of the three, Bulgaria was to first launch its scheme in 2005, offering people citizenship in exchange for a €1m investment.

That citizenship then entitles them to live and work anywhere in the European Union, in moves that create potential security risks.

Asked to release the letters for closer inspection, the European Commission refused, citing jurisprudence.

"The exchanges with Bulgaria are of a strictly bilateral nature as they involve only the commission and the member state concerned," it said, in response to a freedom of information request.

It made similar arguments for Malta and Cyprus, stressing there was no overriding public interest for their disclosure given the previously-launched infringement procedures.

The commission says the schemes undermine the integrity of the status of EU citizenship and free movement.

It also allows people, who had no links to the European Union prior to sometimes paying out millions of euros for the passports, the right to vote.

The commission is also worried about EU candidate countries, as well as the United Kingdom, using similar schemes that offer special access to the EU for prospective future clients.

The UK is no longer a member of the European Union.

Justice commissioner Didier Reynders in October said the schemes were still being used in such countries to attract investors through their privileged partnership agreements, or various accession bids with the EU.

Cyprus blocking EU sanctions on Belarus

Cyprus is holding hostage EU sanctions on Belarus in return for a new Turkey blacklist, EU sources said, as Greek and Turkish ministers traded harsh words in the EU parliament.

Opinion

Time to end EU golden visas for corrupt elites

An explosive investigation by a Pulitzer-winning journalist has revealed how relatives of the Cambodian regime stashed tens of millions of dollars abroad using EU golden passports.

Muscat poker-faced in Malta inquiry into journalist murder

"How well I'm screwed," was the then Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat's first thought on 16 October 2017, when he found out his country's best-known journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, had just been murdered by a car bomb.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU ambassadors flock to Red Square for Putin's parade
  2. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  3. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  4. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  5. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  6. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  7. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  8. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us