President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola has urged European leaders to stop Malta and other countries from selling EU passports.

Dr Metsola was addressing her first EU emergency summit since being elected President in January, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The Kremlin has long thought it could buy its way into Europe. It is time to close any loopholes, end the dangerous phenomenon of golden passports that provide a backdoor to European citizenship and ensure that Russian money does not become as critical as Russian gas. At the end of the day, this is how we achieve our strategic autonomy,” Dr Metsola said. 

Locally, pressure is also mounting on the Government to end the Individual Investor Programme (IIP), also known as the golden passports scheme.

Earlier this week, ADPD Chairman Carmel Cacopardo called for the scheme to be scrapped before the EU forced Malta’s hand.

When asked by journalists whether Malta should stop selling passports to Russian citizens, Prime Minister Robert Abela refused to give a direct answer, insisting that the IIP is robust and operates strong due diligence policies.

“Our rejection rate is very high. A strong percentage of applicants are refused citizenship, and that proves how robust the programme is,” he said, while emphasising that the IIP generates substantial revenue for Malta.

While there are concerns that the IIP could be a way for Russian citizens to avoid sanctions, sources who spoke to said this was unlikely to be the case.

“When sanctions are issued by the UN, EU and so on, a list of names is drawn up. If a Russian citizen seeking to avoid sanctions were to present a passport of a different nation to trick a financial institution into continuing to provide services, there could be institutions that might not realise it’s the same person. It depends on the systems they have, in terms of search engines and so on. I wouldn’t say that a person who gets a Maltese passport is going to dodge sanctions, because systems should be intelligent enough to flag that person,” he said.

Nevertheless, the expert predicted there would be mounting pressure both locally and from the EU, and called on the Maltese Government to urgently review the IIP.

“Unfortunately over the years, Malta has lent itself to giving oligarchs a loophole. At the very least, a discussion needs to take place. International sanctions are one thing, but we need to decide what we’re going to do as a nation. In horrendous situations like this, where people’s lives are at stake, a country like Malta needs to take the moral high ground,” he said.

Valletta ranks 8th most expensive European capital city to live in – study

April 24, 2024
by Fabrizio Tabone

While London is the most expensive, Bucharest is the most affordable

KM Malta Airlines cancels flights between Malta and Paris on Thursday due to air traffic control strike

April 24, 2024
by Fabrizio Tabone

Impacted customers can opt for an alternative flight or apply for a full refund

WATCH: MEPs in dialogue – Financial institutions and over-regulation

April 24, 2024
by Helena Grech

This is the third in a series of debates designed to engage citizens in the lead-up to the MEP elections ...