Members of the European Parliament have again expressed concerns that cash-for-passports schemes expose the European Union to criminality and corruption.

In a debate in plenary on Wednesday, MEPs from different political groupings reiterating calls to the Commission to regulate such programmes, with the majority insisting it was no longer acceptable to dismiss the issue as a national one.

A good number of the MEPs also pointed to Malta as an example of a member state where such a scheme had attracted people whose intentions for buying passports was questionable.

“If you look around on the internet you will find adverts for yachts, watches, luxury villas and then, with the same language, you have adverts for citizenships.

READ: Malta portrayed as a crooked country in MEP debate

“It’s not just the problem of some states. You earn citizenship by making an effort, not with some money. We want clear proposals and not just a report,” Greens MEP Sven Giegold, who has been vocal about his disapproval of such schemes in the past, said.

Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld also called out the apparent “double standards” that member states were exhibiting when running such schemes, a concern that was highlighted by several other Europarliamentarians.

“Saying that this is national competence is not good enough anymore. We need harmonised laws and we need more transparency. We need to stop double standards. Those who come here to work are treated like criminals but those coming here to park their money are treated like kings,” the MEP said to applause from her peers.

Meanwhile, EPP and Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola argued that citizens expected protection and security, insisting that the issue at hand was not only about golden visas as there were “bigger implications” to this.

“I come from a country where importance has always been given to both local and foreign investments.

“But we should never expect European countries to be used for dubious reasons like money-laundering and corruption. We cannot turn a blind eye to this,” Dr Metsola said.

Of the MEPs who took the floor, only three - Portuguese MEP Nuno Melo and Labour Party MEPs Alfred Sant and Miriam Dalli - defended such schemes. All three argued that their countries’ due diligence processes for applicants were rigorous.

Dr Sant also accused those criticising the schemes in Malta and other countries of only targeting member states with formal programmes, ignoring those that ran informal schemes.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us