A resolution vote by MEPs has highlighted the issue of Malta selling passports, with the country due to launch the scheme next month.
European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding told MEPs “Citizenship must not be up for sale”.
The price for Maltese citizenship is 650,000 euros. The Maltese government says the scheme is just another way to attract investment, but the question has provoked an intense debate at the European Parliament.
“We wonder if it is in line with the European citizenship rules in general, because once somebody is a citizen of Malta, the person in question can travel all over the place in Europe, and therefore Malta’s decision has an influence on all other member states,” said Dutch MEP from the Liberal group Jan Mulder.
Malta not the only EU member state with this kind of scheme, but the Maltese one is unique in that applicants do not have to actually live in Malta at any stage and can get their papers after just six months.
Malta is being criticised by the European Commission, as well as MEPs.
Portuguese MEP from the Green group Rui Tavares added, “It will increase competition that already exists between the Member States and it will have consequences. Granting a visa or right to nationality as long as it brings money, it means ultimately that foreigners will not be allowed in Europe if they are poor, only those who have money will be able to enter. “
The scheme is causing controversy back home as well. Malta’s opposition Nationalist Party is nine seats short of a majority. The Nationalists say they are organising a referendum on the passport sale and will take the passports back if they get into power.