The European Commission is launching infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta over their investor citizenship schemes, also known as ‘golden passports’.
Under the schemes, these states grant nationality — and, as a result, EU citizenship — to people from non-EU countries in return for a specific payment or investment.
The commission has previously raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes, flagging in particular worries about security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.
In a statement today (20 October), it said it believed such schemes undermined the essence of EU citizenship and were not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union.
“This also undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship provided for in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” the commission said in a statement.
It said such schemes had implications for the EU as a whole, as when a member state awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status.
These include the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU and the right to vote in municipal elections, as well as elections to the European Parliament.
The Cypriot and Maltese governments now have two months to reply to letters of formal notice sent by the commission. If the replies are not satisfactory, the commission may issue a reasoned opinion — a formal request to comply with EU law — on the issue.
The European Parliament in July reiterated a call for member states to phase out such schemes as soon as possible.