In recent months the European Union has been investigating EU Member States citizenship by investment schemes.
When the Maltese and Cypriot schemes were first introduced, they faced controversy relating to the very direct way in which they were pitched. However, as time has passed, the scepticism of the European Commission and Parliament has not eased.
On 30th May 2018, Malta Today reported that, “European Commissioner Violeta Bulc said the commission was working on a study of citizenship and residence programmes in all member states”. Reports like this can take several years, but it is a clear indication that the EU is concerned about passport programs and wants to find a way to limit or end their use.
These concerns were not helped when a Maltese journalist and blogger, Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017. Since then there has been significant focus on the stories she was working on, including related to Malta’s Individual Investor Programme, known as IIP and the relationship between the government, it’s main Ministers and Henley and Partners.
The combination of renewed reporting of stories by the Daphne Project, lead to reporting and stories like this that have made Henley and Partners and Malta’s government look very bad around the world. Whilst this may all pass, the European Parliament has shown itself to be very concerned and is taking the EU citizenship by investment situation very seriously indeed.
The reality, as displayed when the passport schemes were launched, is that under current rules the EU has minimal powers to oversee the action of European Member States in this area. Naturalisation is considered to be a Member State competency and so the EU has few rules or authority to apply. It is possible that twenty years from now the EU will have been able to change this situation, but in the coming few years, there is very little that Brussels can do to enforce it’s will on individual nations, even those as small as Malta and Cyprus.