Maltese EU citizenship sale angers MEPs

  

Malta’s decision to sell passports, hence European citizenship, for €650,000 to non-EU residents, without any prerequisite whatsoever, not even residence in Malta, has angered MEPs, who debated the issue Wednesday (15 January).

The measure is meant to bridge the budget gap and attract rich investors to the island. The government hopes to get €30 million the first year of implementation.

Manfred Weber, a member of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, called for the legislation 'not put in place'.

Wishful thinking

The request is nothing but wishful thinking since the EU cannot prevent the member state from carrying on with legislation. Indeed, the granting of citizenship is an exclusively national competence even if it gives the same rights to all EU citizens.

“Granting citizenship to a person means giving them rights in all other 27 member states,” the European Commission vice-president in charge of fundamental rights, Viviane Reding, conceded that she "cannot extend the rights of the Commission on this issue."

The Parliament voted in favour of a resolution condemning the measure but it is not binding.

Cyprus, Austria, Belgium and Portugal singled out

Although the Maltese decision has shocked the European Parliament, the sale of EU passports is not a first, the French MEP Sylvie Guillaume said. Malta is only the first country to put a price tag on its passports.

A document prepared by the Maltese authorities lists the number of countries that offer a national passport in exchange for investments, among them Cyprus and Austria.

Austria has mooted the possibility of granting citizenship in exchange for €3 million of foreign direct investment. Cyprus gives the same possibility for €2 million investment in real estate or a €500,000 donation to the research and technology fund.

Belgium and Portugal give residence permits that lead to full citizenship in exchange for large investments.

“But there is a difference between selling the nationality and getting a residence permit in exchange for investments in the country’s economy,” Wim Van de Camp from the European People's Party political group said.

Guillaume, of the Socialists and Democrats, expects the issue to resurface in the EU political debate but concedes that the question will not progress rapidly, since “the European Union lacks a common framework concerning the granting of European citizenship,” another French MEP added.

Positions: 

MEP Véronique Mathieu Houillon (EPP, France) said: I am deeply shocked by the Maltese government’s decision to sell passports without requiring residence in the country. Any criminal will be able to buy a Maltese passport  and go live in Paris or Rome!”

MEP Jan Mulder, of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats parliamentary group, called it “unacceptable".

“EU citizenship should be based on personal relations with Europe or a European citizen. The rights of EU citizens are based on human dignity and trust. These values are priceless and are not to be sold.”

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Comments

Mike Parr's picture

In fairness plenty of others do the same - perhaps with less publicity (UK?). If I had to pick in terms of morality and the choice was a "2-bit whore on a Friday night" and an EU member state - I'd pick the two-bit whore every time. Member states (and the politicos dreaming up this) are whores of the very lowest order.

Thus I agree with the comment of Mulder.

Otto's picture

It's actually a really good idea.
If a person is ready to give €650,000 for a passport, he/she is most probably a multimillionaire.
So, every such "sell" means more taxes, more foreign investments and more jobs.
Every single member state should have such option.

Roger's picture

No, it's actually a very stupid idea. If other countries follow this road, we will see a race to the bottom. At some point (+/- 300.000 EUR), we will see people taking loans from criminal organisations (because banks won't give loans for something they can't recover). As there would be no minimum residency duration, others countries would probably have to pay the costs of security for "their" new citizens, to keep them safe from those that financed the citizenship.

Otto's picture

Roger

Plenty of other countries already do the same (with residence permits - almost every country in the world), but we don't see any "race to the bottom".

I don't think there are a single criminal/legal organisation in the world which can give you a loan of 300.000 EUR if you're not a rich guy already.

Also please take a look on Monaco and Hongkong. This is the primary way of immigration there, but the quality of life and the level of crime are the best in the world.