The European Commission announced Thursday that it will take legal action against Malta’s investor citizenship or “golden passport” scheme.
Under the scheme, Malta offers EU citizenship to foreigners in exchange for an investment in the country of about €1 million.
As this sort of citizenship is issued without “any genuine link to the Member State concerned,” it is “not compatible” with the “principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in the Treaty on European Union, and with the concept of Union citizenship,” the Commission said in its statement, adding it would therefore refer Malta to the Court of Justice of the EU.
European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders tweeted about the move, saying that “EU values are not for sale.”
The Maltese government said it has taken note of the action taken by the Commission, but added that it does not believe it is in breach of European law, local media reported.
The Commission had warned Malta about potential legal steps against the program in 2020 and 2021, but Valletta has not complied with the requests to end the scheme so far.
While the country has suspended the scheme for Russian and Belarusian citizens following the invasion of Ukraine, the scheme is still available to citizens of other countries.
Since it started the scheme in 2014, Malta has offered the deal to several thousand investors and their family members, according to the Commission statement.
Cyprus and Bulgaria had also offered similar schemes, raising concerns about security, money laundering, tax evasion and transparency. Cyprus is still being closely monitored by the Commission, as it only halted the scheme in 2020, but continued processing pending applications until July last year. Bulgaria abolished the scheme entirely in 2022.