Malta vs EU: A Closer Look at the recent Citizenship Dispute Hearing

2 July 2024

Malta and the European Commission presented their arguments on the 17th of June 2024. The case, centred on Malta’s citizenship-by-investment programme, has far-reaching implications for national sovereignty and EU regulatory authority.

Legal Background and Context

At the heart of the dispute is Malta’s Individual Investor Programme (IIP), which grants Maltese—and thus EU—citizenship to individuals who make significant financial investments in the country. The European Commission contends that this programme compromises the integrity of EU citizenship, arguing that citizenship should be based on genuine ties to the member state rather than financial contributions.

Malta’s Defence

Representing Malta, the legal team persistently defended the IIP, asserting that the program falls within the sovereign rights of the country to regulate its own citizenship laws. They highlighted the programme’s economic benefits, pointing to the substantial revenue it generates for Malta. Additionally, they emphasised the stringent vetting process in place to ensure that only individuals of high integrity are granted citizenship. Malta argued that the IIP is compliant with both national legislation and EU principles.

European Commission’s Case

The European Commission’s representatives argued that the IIP is fundamentally at odds with EU values. They claimed that the programme undermines the concept of EU citizenship and violates the principle of sincere cooperation among member states. The Commission raised concerns about potential security risks and the exploitation of legal disparities, emphasising that EU citizenship should not be for sale.

Key Issues Debated

The hearing featured detailed discussions on several critical issues:

  1. Economic Advantages vs. Security Concerns

Malta underscored the economic gains and rigorous applicant screening of the IIP. In contrast, the Commission focused on potential security threats and the erosion of the value of EU citizenship.

  1. National Sovereignty vs. EU Integration

Malta emphasised its sovereign authority to define citizenship laws, while the Commission argued for a harmonised approach to citizenship within the EU.

  1. Implications for Other Member States

Both parties recognised the broader impact of the case, which could affect similar programmes in other EU countries and shape future EU citizenship policies.

Conclusion of Proceedings

The hearing concluded with comprehensive final statements from both sides, encapsulating their arguments and the stakes involved. The judges are now set to deliberate, with a ruling anticipated in the coming months. The decision will be crucial in determining the balance between national sovereignty and EU oversight in matters of citizenship.

Anticipated Impact of the Ruling

The court’s decision will have significant consequences. Should the court rule in favour of the European Commission, Malta may be required to modify or abolish its IIP. Conversely, a ruling in Malta’s favour could encourage other member states to adopt similar programmes, potentially leading to increased tensions within the EU.

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Yuri Tananaev