Russians were the main recipients of Maltese citizenship in 2015, EU figures show.

A breakdown of the approved citizenship applications provided by the European Union’s statistics office, Eurostat, shows that 646 applicants were granted Maltese citizenship two years ago.

Just over 40 per cent, or 258, were Russians, Eurostat said. The second largest group of new citizens were from the United Kingdom, at eight per cent, and Ukraine, four per cent.

The granting of Maltese citizenship to foreigners has been a contentious issue since 2013.

The Individual Investor Programme, one of the first initiatives taken by the Labour administration soon after its return to power, has been shrouded in secrecy from day one.

The second largest group of new citizens were from the United Kingdom

According to Henley & Partners, the company that designed the scheme for the government, the majority of those interested in Maltese passports are millionaires hailing from the former Soviet republics.

According to Eurostat, Moroccans were the most likely to receive citizenship across the EU, with 86,000 now able to call themselves European. About 88 per cent of the Moroccans acquired citizenship in Italy, Spain or France.

In 2015, about 840,000 people were granted citizenship by an EU Member State, down from 890,000 in 2014 and 980,000 in 2013.

Since 2010, more than five million people have become citizens of the EU.

According to the data, nearly nine of every 10 successful citizenship applicants to European countries were non-EU citizens (so-called ‘third-country nationals’).

After Moroccans, Albanians were the most likely to acquire EU citizenship, at 48,400, followed by Turkish nationals at 35,000. Indians were next with 31,000 and Romanians with 28,400.

Pakistanis and Algerians were also high on the applicants’ list.

Collectively, these nationalities represent a third of those who acquired citizenship of an EU Member State.

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