An initiative worth defending | Alex Muscat

We are adamant that such initiatives related to residency and citizenship are matters within our jurisdiction, and only ours

A good deal of work went into planning Malta’s new residency regulations that can lead to citizenship. We listened to the views of the European Commission and took on board what they were saying. But the Commission has still sent another letter. There are two good reasons why Malta should not buckle under the pressure. The first is that citizenship is a competency of member states, not the Commission. The second is that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Ours is an excellent initiative, administered responsibly and of great benefit to the country.

When you hear members representing the Opposition speak in EU fora and blatantly associate our initiatives with the risk of a possible infiltration of criminality and other such negative possibilities, you can be forgiven for asking if we are doing the right thing. But since when has international investment become a crime?

The truth is that the European Union welcomes about two thirds of a million new citizens a year. Some have lived in the EU for years and that’s why they qualify. Others may have married an EU citizen, and many have never set foot on the country granting them citizenship, because their distant relatives were European. Whichever way these people qualify for citizenship, you can be sure that they haven’t been subject to the rigorous checks carried out by applicants under Malta’s citizenship initiative.

Our due diligence is extremely rigorous. It involves police, intelligence, international agencies and a myriad of checks and investigations. This is all done in order to make sure that those seeking our initiatives are genuine investors. Our new citizens are successful people of talent who are contributing to the Maltese economy, charities and voluntary organisations.

We must keep repeating that citizenship is a competency of member states, not Brussels. But we have listened to feedback and come up with new, stronger regulations that are based on residency leading to citizenship. The way Malta confers citizenship does not undermine the mutual trust of Member States, because it is at par with initiatives that other EU member states have in place.

In parallel, we are working on other initiatives that are aimed at attracting talent to the islands. Residency Malta Agency, in collaboration with Identity Malta Agency, has launched a Nomad Residence Permit, whose purpose is to offer third country nationals the opportunity to work remotely from Malta for a temporary period, in line and in accordance with the legal framework already in place.

Applicants who wish to work remotely from Malta for a temporary period of up to one year must prove they can work remotely, independent of location. They should either work for an employer registered abroad, conduct business activity for a company registered abroad, and of which they are partners or shareholders, or offer freelance or consulting services to clients whose permanent establishments are in a foreign country.

This initiative will see Malta jump on the bandwagon of increased demand for remote working globally, as the pandemic shifted goalposts and new trends are being set. Individuals who can work remotely using technology and entrepreneurs with a flair for travelling and discovering new countries and cultures are being made welcome in Malta.

Our islands have much to offer, from their mild climate to a Mediterranean lifestyle, where English is a national language and history and culture permeate every corner of our island, not to mention access to excellent health care services, nomads will feel right at ease the minute they land here. The new Nomad Residence Permit is yet another initiative taken to attract foreign consumption in Malta.

We are adamant that such initiatives related to residency and citizenship are matters within our jurisdiction, and only ours. It is our power to use, and we are using it responsibly. Malta will defend itself strongly, but we will always be willing to participate in healthy discussion.

Should the Commission have other ideas for refining our initiatives, we will engage in good faith. We have no desire for conflict, only to protect our national interest.

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