Labour MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar came out with their guns blazing in favour of Malta’s controversial cash-for-passports scheme on Tuesday, saying Brussels has no jurisdiction over matters related to nationality and citizenship.

The two euro parliamentarians gave this reaction in a news conference organised by the European Parliament Office in Malta on the forthcoming plenary session being held in Strasbourg.

On Tuesday, the European Commission announced it had initiated the process to take legal action against Malta and Cyprus over the so-called golden passport schemes.

In a tweet announcing the action, European Commission vice president for values and transparency, Vera Jourova, said the action was launched "because there cannot be a weak link in EU efforts to curb corruption and money laundering".

Asked for his reaction, Agius Saliba insisted that certain concerns which had been flagged on the original scheme launched in 2014 known as the Individual Investor Programme, had been addressed. These changes were in the process of being rolled out in the second iteration of this programme which was due to start later this year.

A major difference is a more stringent residency clause to ensure that applicants live in Malta for some time before being eligible to buy the Maltese passport.

The MP remarked that the reform ensures more transparency and stronger checks and balances to prevent abuse.

Both Agius Saliba and Cutajar pointed out that the programme had been crucial to generate an additional stream of revenue for the government, part of which was used to roll out measures to mitigate the impact of COVID- 19.

Though the Maltese government is insisting that issues of nationality and citizenship are within its sole jurisdiction, Brussels is disagreeing on the grounds that that such document would also grant entry to all other Member States.

Digital Services Act

Meanwhile, the European Parliament this week is debating the Digital Services Act which aims to update current EU rules for online services and platforms which had been established in the e-Commerce Directive in 2000.

Agius Saliba who is the rapporteur for the Internal Market Committee said the ultimate objective is to put online services at par with traditional retail outlets with respect to consumer protection. The reform also aims to create a level playing field between sellers operating within the EU market and those from third countries like China by binding the latter to the same standards and guarantees.

Other objectives are to harmonise mechanisms when dealing with illegal online activities and to prevent large multinationals from stifling the internal market to the detriment of smaller operators.

Other items on this month's European Parliament agenda are EU rules on Artificial Intelligence, closing the digital gap in education during COVID-19 and the reform in the Common Agricultural Policy.


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