Alfred Sant tells supporters ‘Brussels can’t take away Malta’s golden passport’, and I hope he’s wrong.

The European Union is considering ending the sale of passport schemes by EU member states, particularly Malta’s and Cyprus’s schemes – two of the smallest EU member states with high-level corruption allegations hanging over their heads. 

But MEP Sant hits back by telling his supporters that Brussels has no power to end Malta’s citizenship by investment scheme and that attacks against the scheme were unjustified, failing to acknowledge the alarming concerns that have been highlighted by several international anti-corruption organisations, both on a corruption level and the reduction of value in owning a passport by birth.

The scheme has completely overridden the principle of birth right. Citizenship is not a commodity and should have never been treated like one, yet just two months ago we learnt that Malta sold 62 passports to two of the richest Saudi families in the world, who have never stepped foot on Maltese soil before. Citizenship ownership is supposed to be earned unless born with, and should not depend on how much money one has. The IIP Scheme discriminates against most of the people of a country who do not have $1 million to spend on new passports.

Sant says his interests are only in the people of Malta – yet he fails to address the serious concerns of corruption, the environmental destruction and the extortionate property prices that came about as a result of the sale of passports in Malta and all directly affecting the people’s interests.

Citizenship ownership is supposed to be earned unless born with, and should not depend on how much money one has

According to a report published by Transparency International and Global Witnesses, while Malta has a due diligence process, “applicants who have criminal records or are under investigation can still be considered eligible in ‘special circumstances’”.

The people who have a lot of money, even money acquired through dubious ways, which they need to hide from their home country are welcome in Malta. Through the IIP scheme, Malta is acting as a safe haven for people looking to hide money outside of their own country without any suspicion.

 Not to mention Malta’s alarming track record of failing to prosecute on serious corruption allegations. Malta is the only EU member state that has two panama papers officials who unbelievably still hold the same positions in government, one of which is now interested in becoming Prime Minister – you cannot make this stuff up if you tried.

The IIP scheme may generate millions of euros to a country but it comes with a high cost for the country, the people and Europe. Maltese passports have been sold to hundreds of rich, non-Europeans, while the survival of vulnerable immigrants drowning at sea is debated on for weeks while they die at sea. Are these the values we stand for?

Small member states like Malta and Cyprus are fuelling in money by selling European citizenship, but the burdened risk of attracting criminals and high-scale corruption is shared by all member states.

I would like to remind Sant that the people tarnishing Malta’s reputation are those obstructing transparency and accountability for justice. The people need to vote for MEPs who represent the people’s interests on moral grounds, who work at strengthening relationships in Brussels and who work at engaging with civil society.

MEPs who before counting the millions coming in, should address the likelihood of a corruption scandal before it explodes before our eyes, and not when it’s too late to act. 

The sale of EU citizenship is a disaster waiting to happen and I hope Sant is proved wrong and such schemes by member states are stopped before they become impossible to control.

However, if Sant is right and the EU proves to be powerless to control enabling factors of corruption, then it’s us; the people of our country that hold the power to end it.

Starting by voting for leaders who truly represent the values of the people and demanding action through protest and demonstrations. Citizenship is a value; it is what makes us who we are.

It is about inclusiveness in a society and participating in it, not renting a property in a country you’ve never stepped foot in. Once the government destroys that value we own to rope in a few millions, no money will bring it back, so don’t let them.

Tina Urso is an Il-Kenniesa activist.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece