EU citizenship for sale
17 January 2014
Should EU citizenship be considered as merchandise? Not according to the European Parliament, which adopted, on 16 January, a resolution saying that “European citizenship should not be for sale,” criticising the lack of action by the EUwhen faced with the Maltese government's initiative, proposed in November 2013, to sell national (and thus EU) citizenship for €650,000. “Are legislative proposals which sell national citizenship acceptable?” asked German MEP Manfred Weber (EPP). “The Maltese government's desire to do this is erroneous. Nationality can not be granted to a person who has never even set foot in the country. I am launching an appeal to the Maltese citizens: tell your government to put a stop to this ridiculous practice!”
“You cannot put a price tag on EU citizenship,” said Viviane Reding, the commissioner for justice, citizenship and fundamental rights. “The conditions of citizenship are governed by the national law of every member state,” she recalled. “Since the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty, granting the nationality of a member state also signifies granting EU citizenship and all the accompanying rights. Member states must therefore use this in the spirit of sincere cooperation.”
By selling Maltese citizenship, Labour Prime Minister Jospeh Muscat (in power since March 2013) intends to add at least €130 million to the state coffers – more than 5% of the country's fiscal receipts. However, in the resolution, adopted with a large majority (560 votes in favour), Parliament refrains from making any explicit references to Malta – or any other countries. In Spain, Latvia and Portugal, similar measures are in force, accompanied by conditions on moving to the country and local investment. The UK grants entrepreneur and investor visas to non-European citizens who are able to invest at least GBP200,000, while the Netherlands requires €1.25 million of investment. Meanwhile, in Malta, no such investment is required.
Another stumbling block is access to private benefits. In a public tender, concluded in August 2013, the Maltese government awarded the administration of its programme for buying nationality – the 'Individual investor programme' – to an international consulting firm called Henley and Partners. “It's a negative spiral that is dragging us down,” said Kinga Göncz (S&D, Hungary). “These practices will only promote money laundering,” emphasised Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE-NGL, France). “When a person has never set foot in a country you cannot grant them that nationality,” argued Jan Mulder (ALDE, Netherlands). “Therefore a clear distinction is needed between citizenship and the right to reside. It would be good for Europe to adopt a clear directive on the subject.”