The developments of the conflict surrounding Russia and Ukraine are impacting several nations across the globe, both directly and indirectly. As the United States and European Union member states plan a series of sanctions to block Russia and its residents out of the global economy, Malta may also be potentially impacted. In light of these events, Malta’s passport scheme is now under the spotlight.
An EU emergency summit
In her first EU emergency summit following her successful election to President, Roberta Metsola emphasised with EU leaders to cease the sales of golden passports. In the midst of this tragedy happening within the European continent, Roberta Metsola stated that gaps need to be closed so as not to allow Russians to infiltrate member states through citizenship. She also stated that such schemes are dangerous because they allow entry from a backdoor within EU countries. Roberta Metsola also went on to add that by eliminating dependence on funds provided by Russia, will the EU allow the needed strategic autonomy.
The impact for the Maltese passport programme
The appeal made by Roberta Metsola will add pressure on Malta’s passport scheme. When Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela was asked whether the country would cease selling its passport to Russian nationals, a definite reply was not provided. He did state however that the Malta Individual Investor Programme is robust and operated with strong due diligence policies in place. The Prime Minister went on to add that the rejection rate for this programme is quite high. A significant number of applicants are refused citizenship. He also emphasised that the programme is an important revenue generator.
A potential loophole
One of the major concerns at this point in time is that rich Russians may sidestep sanctions which are set to be imposed, by acquiring Maltese and hence EU passports. Through the acquisition of such a passport, they would be recognised as Maltese citizens, hence bypassing the impacts of sanctions through this loophole. International media has also reported about this risk, where Malta would potentially serve as a soft entry point for the Kremlin to access Europe and its financial markets. To these rumours, the Prime Minister stated that they are unfounded and speculative.
The Individual Investor Programme offered by Malta has long been a target of other EU member states. Several questions were raised regarding the quality and integrity of individuals who were being given access to Europe. It has come under heavy fire due to very flexible conditions which allowed leeway deemed unacceptable.
Do you think that we are nearing the end of golden passports? Let us know your views in the comments section below.