EU launches legal action against Malta, Cyprus over ‘golden passports’
Brussels believes the programs, which enable investors to effectively buy EU citizenship, are unlawful.
By Laurenz Gehrke October 20, 2020 2:56 pm
The European Commission on Tuesday launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta over their so-called “golden passport” schemes.
The programs, which enable investors to effectively buy EU citizenship, are against EU law, the Commission argued.
In an official statement, the Commission said it “considers that the granting by [Malta and Cyprus] of their nationality — and thereby EU citizenship — in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment and without a genuine link with [Malta and Cyprus] is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4 (3) of the Treaty on European Union.” Advertisement
The Commission added that the consequences of such schemes are not confined to the countries applying them, given all EU citizens enjoy the same rights, including “the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU.” In Brussels, golden passports have also raised concerns about money laundering for some time.
The governments of Malta and Cyprus now have two months to formally respond to the Commission’s letters of notice, and will face further pressure from the EU executive unless their replies are “satisfactory.” The Commission can eventually also refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Cyprus earlier this month decided to get rid of its golden passport scheme by November 1. Government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said the scheme would be phased out due to its “long-term weaknesses” and the “abusive exploitation of the provisions.”
Věra Jourová, the Commission’s vice president in charge of transparency, said after Tuesday’s announcement that “there cannot be a weak link in EU efforts to curb corruption and money laundering,” adding: “EU passports cannot be for sale.”
Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP who has been vocal on the issue, tweeted: “Our pressure is having an effect: The EU Commission has today launched infringement proceedings for the sale of EU passports against Cyprus and Malta.
That’s an important step against money laundering and corruption.”