The European Commission on Thursday reiterated that EU values are not for sale, in the wake of the Passport Papers revelations.
A Commission spokesperson said the EU’s executive was aware of media reports about Malta’s citizenship scheme.
The spokesperson reminded of the Commission’s view that granting EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments, without a genuine link, undermines the essence of EU citizenship and violates EU law.
“This is why we launched infringement procedures against Malta and Cyprus last year.”
The spokesperson said these infringement proceedings are ongoing and the Commission will not hesitate to take the next steps, as needed.
Times of Malta and other reporting partners revealed on Thursday how the government only took a token approach to the genuine link requirement.
Leaked documents showed how many rich passport buyers prefered to spend the minimum amount of time possible on the island.
The documents also revealed the existence of a tick-box system, where donations to charity, joining a club or using a mobile telephony service were all used to make the case that a genuine link had been formed between the passport buyer and Malta.
'An open door to corruption'
Also reacting to the revelations, Greens MEP Sven Giegold said the Malta government’s disregard for European values was even greater than feared.
“For eight years now, Malta has been enriching itself by selling passports and visas. The visas and passports sold are an open door to corruption. European citizens' rights are not a commodity.
“Malta must stop all practices in this area immediately. The EU Commission must put an immediate end to this threat to our security and the rule of law. A consistent and credible path to a functioning rule of law in Malta is now needed”, Giegold said.
In a Tweet on Thursday morning, PN MEP Roberta Metsola said the Passport Papers were a damning indictment of a blatant “get-rich-quick scheme”.
The MEP said selling EU citizenship to the highest bidder should never have been considered, let alone allowed to operate with impunity.
When infringement procedures were launched by the Commission last October, the government dug in its heels, insisting that the EU has no right to dictate what individual member states when it comes to citizenship.
In its first reaction to the Passport Papers on Thursday, the government again emphasised the importance of the scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the funds generated had helped mitigate the negative economic impacts of the virus.