European Commission Refers Malta to Court of Justice Over MEIN Policy

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Two years after it first initiated infringement procedures against Malta (and Cyprus) over the country’s citizenship by investment program – now the MEIN policy – the European Commission today referred the case to the European Court of Justice.

Background:
In October 2020, the European Commission initiated infringement procedures against Malta and Cyprus over those countries’ operation of citizenship by investment programs. The Commission insists that CIPs are a violation of the principle of “sincere cooperation” enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty of the EU because it confers citizenship in the absence of so-called “genuine links”, a contention disputed by Malta and scholars of EU citizenship law.  Over the course of the last two years, the Commission has sent two letters of formal notice to Malta, in which it requested the country end its citizenship by investment program. Finally, in April, the Commission sent a Reasoned Opinion, effectively a final demand to comply or see the matter escalated to the European Court of Justice. Malta rebuffed the Reasoned Opinion on the same day that it received it, nearly six months ago.

Today, the Commission finally referred the matter to the European Court of Justice, according to a press release published on its website:

“[…]the Commission decided today to refer Malta to the Court of Justice of the EU under Article 258(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” reads the press release.

While making sincere efforts to address several of the Commission’s objections, such as by reforming its program in 2021 to include longer residence periods, Malta has consistently maintained that the MEIN policy (and the MIIP before it) do not constitute a breach of the Treaty and that, on the contrary, questions of naturalization are the exclusive competency of the individual member states. Indeed, Malta has indicated it would be prepared to defend its position in the European Court of Justice, which it will finally have the chance to do.