Malta must not only act to stop Russian and Belarusian citizens from purchasing Maltese passports but must consider removing this activity completely, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg on Monday during a discussion on bringing residence by investment schemes to a halt in EU member states.
Reynders clarified that the Commission “(doesn’t) want any golden passports anywhere”, and that this position has not only been raised since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine but since infringement procedures began in October 2020.
On Monday and Tuesday, the European Parliament discussed a draft legislative initiative report that sets out an array of measures to address problems linked to ‘citizenship and residence by investment schemes’. MEPs will vote to stop golden passports by 2025 and for EU rules around golden visas.
“We have already been able to put an end to these programmes in Cyprus and also the abolition at the Bulgarian parliament – where there is a vote to eliminate this completely. We’d like this to be removed completely in Malta,” the Justice Commissioner said.
Reynders added that although the scheme in Cyprus has been removed, he would like that all passports that were issued so far to be checked.
“It is not normal that we can sell this common good, this European common good of 27 member states to simply fill the coffers of a member state. So the total complete abolition of this procedure, not simply to reduce it but to completely eliminate it,” he added.
Following Reynders speech, Dutch MEP Sophie In’t Veldt, who wrote up the report, did not mince her words when speaking about the urgency with which this issue needs to be tackled.
“The time of asking national governments nicely is over. It is great if golden visa schemes disappear but not as a result of ad hoc decisions of whoever happens to be in government at any given time, but structurally, as the outcome of European legislation,” she said.
Maltese MEP David Casa also appealed to European leaders to halt the sale of European Union citizenship. “It is high time that European countries closed this shameful chapter for good,” Casa said.
Casa explained that the sale of passports already hurt governments’ interests “in the fight against money laundering and corruption.” He added that this sale was a “tool” in the hands of those ready to break the law.
On Wednesday, MEPs will vote on the final report and, if endorsed by the plenary, the Commission will need to prepare a legislative proposal or justify its decision.