The European Commission does not endorse any of the EU states’ cash-for-passport schemes, justice commissioner Vera Jourova insisted.
Replying to a question by MEP Roberta Metsola days after a report urging member states to crack down on such schemes, Ms Jourova said that such schemes did not have the Commission’s backing.
“I think it was very clear what we wrote [in the report] and I will clearly repeat, we do not endorse the system,” the justice commissioner said.
Following last week’s publication, Ms Jourova had already made it clear that the Commission was looking at the schemes “with concern”.
Malta is one of only three member states that have “investor citizenship schemes”. The other two are Cyprus and Bulgaria.
In last week’s report, the Commission said that Malta’s scheme has no actual mechanisms to ensure that passport buyers actually lived on the island or formed a genuine link in other ways.
The Commission also noted how non-public bodies such as approved agents or the schemes concessionaire Henley and Partners played a significant role throughout the application process, acting on behalf of applicants and interacting directly with the competent authorities.
Sources familiar with the drafting of the publication had told Times of Malta that the final version had been toned down by the EU’s executive.
Directing her question at the Commissioner, Dr Metsola said that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat “travels the world boasting that his passport-sale scheme is the only one with what he calls the official endorsement of the European Commission.
“Based on what you said, can I say that the European Commission does not endorse the sale of passports? And while I understand that legally your interpretation is such that you are unable to stop it, are you at the very least able to say that this scheme of my country does not have the endorsement of the Commission?” the MEP asked.
Since it was first introduced in 2014, soon after the Labour Party was elected to office, the passport sale scheme has encountered strong resistance from the Commission.
The body only backed down after the government agreed to ensure that those buying the passport established a genuine link with the country through a 12-month residence period prior to becoming a Maltese citizen.
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