Malta is set to start selling citizenships for the Mediterranean island – at an exorbitant €650,000 a pop.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the scheme, which would give buyers work and residency rights to the European Union, would bring in €30 million in the first year.
Muscat’s figure suggests 45 people would be sold citizenship during the first 12 months, with up to 300 expected to apply each year.
The opposition Nationalist Party has strongly opposed the scheme, complaining that it is not linked to residence or investment. Leader Simon Busuttil warned in parliament that Malta could end up being compared to tax haven countries in the Caribbean.
Busuttil said his party was not ruling out a proposal to collect signatures to try to force a referendum on the scheme.
The European Commission said on Wednesday that it has no power to stop Malta, or any other member state, from selling EU citizenship, news website EUobserver reports. “Member states have full sovereignty to decide to who and how they grant their nationality,” the EC home affairs spokesman, Michele Cercone, told the media. He pointed out that the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg has “confirmed” in “several” cases that “it is for each member state to lay down the conditions for granting citizenship.”
Earlier this year Muscat dismissed fears Malta would become the next country to seek an EU bailout package, saying the economy was growing and debt was under control.
Edited: 14/11, 10:30am CET with the reaction of the EU Commission.
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