Thursday

7th Jul 2022

'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.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. Report: British PM Johnson to resign today
  2. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  3. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  4. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  5. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  6. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  7. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  8. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  2. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  3. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  4. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  5. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  6. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  7. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  8. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us