Malta has responded to the initial stage of infringement proceedings brought against it by the European Commission (EC), a spokesperson for the EC has confirmed, adding that the EC would now “carefully analyse the reply”.
Just over two months ago, on 6th April, the EC sent Malta a reasoned opinion, the first stage of proceedings related to the controversial citizenship by investment scheme. Malta was given two months to answer.
A spokesperson for the Commission, speaking to BusinessNow.mt, confirmed that it received an answer by the deadline.
The exact contents of the Maltese Government’s response are as yet unknown, as the Commission’s press office does not comment on infringement proceedings, according to the spokesperson. However, it is understood to be largely, if not entirely, in line with its initial statement.
On the day it was notified that the EC would be opening a case against the country for maintaining the scheme in the face of European outrage, the Government, through a press release by the Ministry for Home Affairs, Security, Reforms and Equality, said: “The grant of citizenship falls within the national competence of a member state and it should remain as such.”
The press officer for the justice, consumers, equality and rule of law confirmed that the Commission received Malta’s response to its reasoned opinion on Malta’s citizenship by investment scheme.
“We will carefully analyse the reply before deciding on any next steps,” she said.
Leaving the door open to further action seems to indicate that the Commission is less than impressed with the Government’s defence of the so-called ‘Golden Passport’ scheme.
Few will be surprised with the EC’s lukewarm response. Two months ago, when it launched infringement proceedings against Malta, it said that “it considers such a scheme is in breach of the principle of sincere cooperation and infringes the very status of citizenship of the Union”.
If Malta’s reply is deemed unsatisfactory, the Commission may bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The scheme, long the subject of dispute between the Maltese Government, which says it is a legitimate industry bringing hundreds of million into state coffers, and the EC, came under intense scrutiny in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The largest group of buyers of Maltese citizenship are reportedly of Russian origin.
Questions sent to the Home Affairs Minister and Permanent Secretary were left unanswered by the time this article was published.
The questions were:
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