The European Commission has sent letters of formal notice to Malta and Cyprus after it announced on 19 October 2020 that it was starting an infringement procedure against the two countries.
The legal action relates to the citizenship-by-investment programmes that both Malta and Cyprus operate, which pose serious security risks to the EU, the Commission said.
The two member states have been given two months to reply to the notices, and if their responses are not deemed satisfactory, they will be required to provide a “reasoned opinion” on the matter.
The Commission added that for a member state to grant citizenship on the basis of payment or investment without a genuine link to the country “is 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 it was forced to step in because golden visa schemes do not only affect the country that offers them, but the EU as a whole.
“When a member state awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European parliament.
“The Commission considers that the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments without any genuine link with the member states concerned, undermines the essence of EU citizenship.”
But Malta and Cyprus are not the only European countries in the EU’s firing line.
Alongside the formal notices, the Commission also required Bulgaria, who has a similar investment programme, to provide further details and address the bloc’s concerns.
The Bulgarian government will have one month to reply, after which the Commission will decide what steps to take on the matter.