There was widespread incredulity on social networks yesterday when many foreign media organisations reported that the Maltese Parliament had approved the citizenship-for-sale scheme.

A typical tweet came from Brussels-based Hungarian journalist Zoltán Konsiczky, who asked “are you serious?” when he saw a link to the news.

Newswires such as Reuters carried reports saying the law allowing foreigners to purchase Maltese – and, consequently, EU citizenship – for €650,000 had passed and this was promptly picked up by large media organisations.

The British Daily Telegraph, the Irish Independent, the German Spiegel and Spanish 24 Horas were some of the many websites that published articles on the scheme yesterday.

No matter the legal guarantees, criminals will eventually find a way around the law

Asked to elaborate on his tweet, Mr Konsiczky said: “If it really means simple selling of Maltese citizenship became legal and possible, then it is an outrage, not just for Malta but the entire EU.”

After explaining why most Europeans hold their citizenship in high esteem and would baulk at the idea of their government selling it, he highlighted his security concerns.

“No matter the legal guarantees, criminals will eventually find a way around the law.

“Can you imagine the security threat it would pose to give wealthy but really dangerous people the access to the freedom we reserve for ourselves because we trust each other?”

Olaf Cramme, director of Policy Network, an international left-wing think tank, tweeted: “Lots of bewilderment about #Malta’s decision to sell #EU citizenship for €650,000. Expect another country to follow suit and undercut price.”

Guillaume Duval, French editor of the monthly Economics Alternatives, posted on Facebook: “Tax and regulatory havens were having a field day in the [European] Union, now there are also paradises of citizenship... these small, rogue states live off the EU and will eventually kill it.”

But not all reactions were negative. Irish talk show host Eric Isherwood tweeted: “We gave out 36,000 [new citizenships] this year for free; imagine if we took a leaf out of Malta (sic) book how much it would bring in revenues.”

MEPs also began to react to the scheme.

Austrian socialist MEP Jörg Leichtfried contrasted the scheme with the plight of international refugees who risk drowning in the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

“Even if the budget situation is tense, Malta needed to find other ways to get more revenue,” Mr Leichtfried was quoted as saying in the Austrian press.

German MEP Elmar Brock, who chairs the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Times of Malta he could not imagine the programme fulfilled the “spirit and letter” of EU law.

“I think the socialist government of Malta wants to do big business with rich people.

“Ironically, I would propose that Malta should give this big honorarium from rich people to the countries of final settlement,” he said.

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