The European Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 15 warned that European Union citizenship "must not be up for sale" following controversy over a Maltese initiative to grant passports to wealthy foreign investors.
"Granting the nationality of a member state means also granting EU citizenship and the rights attached to it," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. "Member states should only award citizenship to persons where there is a ‘genuine link’ or ‘genuine connection’ to the country in question," she added. "Citizenship must not be up for sale!"
She said the EU's executive arm was paying close attention to member countries which have set up investor schemes for granting citizenship, with Malta being the most recent example.
The Maltese citizenship project would grant Maltese passports to foreigners willing to invest 1.1 million euros in the country, part of which is to be invested in real estate.
"It is legitimate to question whether EU citizenship rights should merely depend on the size of someone's wallet or bank account," Reding said.
Several European Parliament members also spoke out against putting a price tag on EU citizenship during a debate on the issue Wednesday. German conservative Manfred Weber called for an end to such legislation, while French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat said putting citizenship up for sale would only encourage money laundering.
A resolution on citizenship for sale will be put to a vote in the European Parliament on Thursday.
Portugal, Latvia, Cyprus and Great Britain are among member states with existing schemes that grant foreigners residency rights in exchange for financial ‘gestures.’