A vote on a resolution in connection with the matter is scheduled to take place the following day at noon.
As reported, a scheme put forward by the Maltese government that would permit high net worth individuals from outside the European Union to become Maltese – and thus EU – citizens, in exchange for paying a set fee, set off a storm of controversy on the island in November, and spread to other countries within the bloc, where a number of others already have similar programmes in place.
Under the rules approved by the Maltese Parliament but placed on hold to allow more time to accommodate the scheme's critics, wealthy individuals who made a minimum contribution of €650,000 (plus €25,000 each for a spouse or minor children) could be granted Maltese citizenship, providing they met due diligence criteria, and passed a criminal background check.
Their Maltese passport would give these individuals full voting rights o the island, and the right to travel and settle freely within the European Union.
The Individual Investor Programme (IIP) was introduced by the Maltese government in a bid to bolster Malta’s public finances, with estimates that it could generate some €30m in its first year. It was expected to appeal to wealthy Russians and Chinese in particular.
The Maltese Parliament's approval sparked a firestorm of opposition locally, however, which spread into other countries within the EU, many of which are struggling to accommodate large numbers of immigrants.
The controversy prompted the UK’s shadow immigration minister, David Hanson, to express his “serious concerns” about the matter, and to propose tabling questions in the UK Parliament to find out what steps the Home Office had taken to oppose it.
Existing passports-for-cash programmes
At least five EU states – Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Latvia, Greece – already have programmes in place that grant residency rights to non-EU nationals in exchange for financial considerations.
The UK has a scheme as well which is aimed at deriving income from wealthy foreigners who are looking to reside in Britain, known as the Tier 1 Investor Visa programme.
The Tier 1 programme allows individuals with at least £1m to invest in the country to remain resident on a long-term basis, which is seen as a stepping stone to British citizenship, but it is not automatic.
The visas were introduced in 2008, and their take-up increased sharply in 2011, when the rules were changed to encourage more people to apply.