The vice president of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, has said the bloc is setting out plans to start an “infringement procedure” against Malta and Cyprus because of their citizenship-by-investment (CBI) schemes.
The programmes allow foreign nationals to acquire a Maltese or Cypriot passport in exchange of a significant investment in the country, which often entails buying a property.
International Adviser reported on 13 October that Cyprus halted its golden visa scheme after an investigation by newswire Al Jazeera uncovererd that international criminals had managed to get their hands on Cypriot passports.
Since its introduction, Cyprus has raised €7bn (£6.3bn, $8.2bn) through its CBI scheme.
Last year, the EU took aim at the various CBIs offered by some of the 27 member states and ordered the countries to “phase them out” as quickly as possible, as they pose security risks to the bloc.
Taking a firm stance
Maltese prime minister Robert Abela defended the investment programme because of its economic contribution to the country, according to local paper Times of Malta.
Shortly after unveiling the country’s 2021 Budget, Abela said: “We will be defending Malta. Had it not been for the contributions from that programme, which we are in the process of winding down, we would probably not have been in a position to present a budget of this scale.”
In July 2020, IA reported that Malta was debating changing its Individual Investor Programme and amending some of the conditions, such as living on the island for at least a year before investing €750,000.
Additionally, for those spending €600,000, they will be required to be Maltese residents for at least three years; and the minimum investment would double to €700,000 with a mandatory €10,000 philanthropic donation.