Malta will continue to engage with the European Commission in order to address Brussels’ concerns about the Individual Investor Programme, but will not be backing down and scrapping the programme, Prime Minister Robert Abela has said.
Replying to questions earlier today, Abela insisted that the programme had done the country a world of good and had allowed the government to support several worthy causes, adding that this was the main reason for efforts to see it brought to an end.
Abela also accused the Opposition of hypocrisy and of secretly admitting locally that it supported the scheme despite its manoeuvres in Brussels intended to place the programme in a negative light.
“It would be good if we could not have an Opposition that tells financial services practitioners that it will support the programme, only to then go out and maneuver against it, because the reality of what is happening is exactly that.
“The Opposition is not being honest, particularly, with financial services practitioners, who it tells one thing when meeting around a table, only for it to then go and fan the flames against Malta within the corridors of the European Commission,” Abela said.
The Prime Minister’s remarks came shortly after the European Commission announced that it had sent Malta a formal notice in relation to the scheme, which it argues goes against the spirit of the EU Treaties.
Though it acknowledged that changes had recently been made to the Maltese programme, the Commission said it was prepared to take legal action against Malta before the European Courts of Justice.
While this was an eventuality he would rather avoid, Abela said that the government would be defending the country’s interests if it came to it.
“If the case ends up before the ECJ we will be building a strong case for the country,” Abela said, who reiterated the government’s position that citizenship was a matter of national competence which the EU had no say in.
Asked if the government was open to addressing the Commission’s concerns, Abela said that a new scheme had been launched precisely in order to address the Commission’s concerns.
In fact, the Prime Minister noted that Malta was often criticised for having too rigorous a process, which he said saw one the highest proportion of rejected applications when compared to other programmes.
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