Roberta Metsola urged European leaders to stop the sale of golden passports when she attended an EU emergency summit on the Ukraine crisis on Thursday, her first since her election as European Parliament president.
"The Kremlin has long thought it could buy its way into Europe. It is time to close any loopholes, end the dangerous phenomenon of golden passports that provide a backdoor to European citizenship and ensure that Russian money does not become as critical as Russian gas. At the end of the day, this is how we achieve our strategic autonomy," Metsola said.
Her appeal will add pressure on Robert Abela who on Wednesday would not say whether Malta would stop selling passports to Russian citizens as part of the IIP scheme.
Replying to questions, Abela would only say that the Individual Investor Programme is 'robust' and operates strong due diligence policies.
"Our rejection rate is very high. A strong percentage of applicants are refused citizenship, and that proves how robust the programme is," he said. He also underscored the importance of the IIP programme as a revenue-earner.
Concerns have been raised, however, that Maltese citizenship could be a way how rich Russians sidestep possible EU sanctions since they would legally also be considered as Maltese citizens.
Britain's Daily Telegraph reported 'consternation' in the EU and the US that the Kremlin is attempting to use Malta as a soft-entry point for access to the European Union and international financial markets.
Abela dismissed the report as baseless speculation.