Malta will continue to snub calls to terminate the sale of passports to wealthy foreigners, with the government insisting on Friday that the EU cannot interfere in the matter.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday reiterated calls for the government to stop the scheme, during a short visit to Malta.
Speaking on the sidelines of a press conference on Friday, parliamentary secretary for citizenship Alex Muscat said the disagreement between the government and commission boiled down to a point of principle.
Muscat insisted that citizenship is a purely national competence that the EU cannot dictate terms about.
“We continue to believe that citizenship is a national competence decided by each individual country”, Muscat said.
The commission in turns argues the sale of European passports violates EU treaties and impacts all 27 member states, not just Malta.
Brussels has argued the scheme opens the EU up to infiltration by organised crime groups, as well as to money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
Last year, infringement proceedings were opened by the commission against the government over the scheme, in a pitched battle that could well end up before the European court.
The government has turned to funds generated from the scheme to bolster its economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Questioned if wealthy passport buyers from countries like Russia had been exempted from strict quarantine rules put in place in recent months, Muscat assured this was not the case.
“Whoever comes to Malta, be it a worker or investor has the same requirements”, Muscat said.
Earlier this year, a leaked cache of documents known as the Passport Papers had shed a light on how millionaires looking to buy a Maltese passport would spend the bare minimum amount of time on the island to qualify for the scheme.
The government insists the residency requirements under the new passports scheme are much more stringent than they used to be.
A survey commissioned by Times of Malta in July found Maltese are split on whether the scheme should be scrapped.
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