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June 11, 2021
The European Commission on Wednesday advanced its infringement proceedings against the EU island states of Cyprus and Malta over their cash-for-passports schemes, in a move that may eventually see the two states face court proceedings and fines.
The Commission justified its actions by arguing that the “golden passport” schemes of the two states, which offered citizenship in exchange for pre-determined payments and investments, were a breach of EU law. More specifically, the Commission considered that the schemes were in violation of the principle of sincere cooperation and the definition of citizenship of the Union as laid down in the Treaties.
The Commission further stated that while Cyprus and Malta remained responsible to decide who may become Cypriot and Maltese, prior rulings of the European Court of Justice had made it clear that rules on the acquisition of the nationality of a Member State must have “due regard to EU law.”
The move of sending an additional letter of formal notice to Malta and reasoned opinion to Cyprus continues on the infringement procedures that had been introduced by the Commission back in October. While the two states have taken some actions to address the concerns previously raised by the Commission in its initial formal notice, the continuation of the infringement proceedings indicates that the actions of the members were not sufficient.
Both states now have two months to take the necessary measures to address the Commission’s concerns. In the case of Cyprus, if the reply is not satisfactory, the Commission may bring the matter before the Court of Justice. In the case of Malta, an unsatisfactory reply could lead the Commission to proceed with the infringement proceedings and issue a reasoned opinion in the matter.
Transparency International welcomes the advancement of infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta over their haphazard sale of citizenship. In recent years, myriad investigations and Transparency International’s own research have demonstrated that EU Member States’ investment migration schemes have served corrupt interests, rather than common good. The Commission’s action this week should send a strong signal also to other countries with similar risky schemes.
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