The Times of Malta reports to have obtained statements from “senior government sources, including cabinet ministers, civil servants, and external advisers” confirming that Prime Minister Robert Abela, who recently won another term in office, is contemplating a potential end to the country’s MEIN policy.
According to the newspaper:
Abela has been presented with a Goldilocks assortment of options ranging from the piping hot move to end the scheme to a cold redrafting. Abela is understood to be weighing whether to halt passport sales outright, setting a cut-off date within the next few years – roughly 2025 – or reworking the scheme for a second time.
Citing unnamed program agents, the Times says sales are down by as much as 40% from two years ago and that the recent suspension of Russians and Belarusians, who have made up about a third of applicants in recent years, will not help matters.
While the Times hinted that reduced demand may in part be what’s precipitating the government’s considering “reworking the scheme,” falling demand for Maltese citizenship are just as likely to be the consequence – rather than the cause – of program policy changes: The introduction of the MEIN policy made the 12-month path to Maltese citizenship more expensive by raising the minimum contribution from EUR 650,000 to EUR 750,000 and doubling the threshold for property investment from EUR 350,000 to EUR 700,000.
While the private considerations of the Prime Minister, naturally, remain in the realm of speculation, his decision to terminate the office of Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship (until recently held by Alex Muscat) and, instead, fold responsibility for MEIN policy into the remit of the Home Affairs Ministry could be a sign that the program may be given decreased priority in the second Abela administration.
During his tenure, Alex Muscat was a vocal defender of the MEIN policy (and the MIIP before that), adamantly pointing out to the European Commission that, while Malta was amenable to reforms that took Europe’s concerns into account, the decision on whether or not to operate a citizenship by investment program was, ultimately, a decidedly national – rather than Union-level – competence. It remains to be seen whether Home Minister Byron Camilleri, who is now responsible for the program, will champion the CBI cause for Malta with equal fervor.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.