Tag Archives: Malta

MEPs refuse “golden” passports scheme

Brussels 22.10.2020 EU citizenship cannot be traded as a commodity, according to a majority of speakers, who want to end the “golden passports” schemes currently in place in some member states.

In a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the inherent risks that these programmes give rise to, namely money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. They insisted that Europe must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”.

MEPs underlined that granting EU citizenship to third-country nationals without proper checks and transparency has negative consequences in other member states, eroding mutual trust and undermining common values.

Several speakers referred to the recent scandal in Cyprus, where high-ranking officials – including the Speaker of the national parliament – were secretly recorded offering to assist a fictional Chinese executive with a criminal record in getting a Cypriot passport through the national “citizenship by investment” scheme. They also acknowledge the Commission’s decision to open infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta, though some complained that it has taken too long to act.

Some MEPs noted that the share of revenues from these programmes is significant for countries such as Cyprus, whilst many argued that EU values and rights should not be for sale.

Cyprus, Malta, and Bulgaria are the three EU countries where it is possible to get citizenship in exchange for an investment, the so-called “golden passports”. As many as 19 EU countries operate “residence by investment” programmes, known as “golden visas”.

In January 2019, the European Commission established a group of experts with representatives from all EU member states to develop common standards and guidelines in this area. After four meetings last year, the group has so far not met in 2020.

Cyprus and Malta risk EU lawsuits

20.10.2020 Today, the European Commission is launching infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta by issuing letters of formal notice regarding their investor citizenship schemes also referred to as “golden passport” schemes.

The Commission considers that the granting by these Member States of their nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment and without a genuine link with the Member States concerned, is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union. This also undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship provided for in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. As a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the Member States operating them, nor are they neutral with regard to other Member States and the EU as a whole.

The Commission considers that the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments without any genuine link with the Member States concerned, undermines the essence of EU citizenship.

The Cypriot and Maltese governments have two months to reply to the letters of formal notice. If the replies are not satisfactory, the Commission may issue a Reasoned Opinion in this matter.

Investor citizenship schemes allow a person to acquire a new nationality based on payment or investment alone. These schemes are different to investor residence schemes (or “golden visas”), which allow third-country nationals, subject to certain conditions, to obtain a residence permit to live in an EU country.

The conditions for obtaining and forfeiting national citizenship are regulated by the national law of each Member State, subject to due respect for EU law. As nationality of a Member State is the only precondition for EU citizenship and access to rights conferred by the Treaties, the Commission has been closely monitoring investor schemes granting the nationality of Member States.

The Commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes and certain risks that are inherent in such schemes. As mentioned in the Commission’s report of January 2019, those risks relate in particular to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption and the Commission has been monitoring wider issues of compliance with EU law raised by investor citizenship and residence schemes. In April 2020, the Commission wrote to the Member States concerned setting out its concerns and asking for further information about the schemes.

In a resolution adopted on 10 July 2020, the European Parliament reiterated its earlier calls on Member States to phase out all existing citizenship by investment (CBI) or residency by investment (RBI) schemes as soon as possible. As stated by President von der Leyen in the State of the Union Address of 16 September 2020, European values are not for sale.

The Commission is also writing again to Bulgaria to highlight its concerns regarding an investor citizenship scheme operated by that Member State and requesting further details. The Bulgarian government has one month to reply to the letter requesting further information, following which the Commission will decide on the next steps.

Daphne Caruana Galizia PRIZE

Brussels 19.10.2020 The European Parliament has launched Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism on anniversary of her murder commemorating the third time the assassination of the Maltese investigative journalist, the prize will reward journalism reflecting EU principles and values.

The purpose of the prize is to distinguish outstanding journalism that reflects the European Union’s principles and values, as enshrined in the European Charter of Human Rights. The European Parliament considers that protecting press freedom around the world, and particularly that of investigative journalists whilst exercising their duties, is in the vital interest of democratic societies.

Even though the prize is initiated and supported by Parliament, it will be managed by an independent EU-based media partner in order to protect the independence of the prize and the work of the media.

The European Parliament will soon begin selecting an independent organisation to establish the detailed criteria for awarding the prize and decide on who will sit on the jury. A call for tender to select such an organisation will be launched before the end of 2020.

The call for nominees for the prize will be launched around 03 May 2021 – World Press Freedom Day. The annual award ceremony will take each year around the anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist and blogger who was killed in a car bomb attack on 16 October 2017. She focused on investigative journalism, reporting on government corruption, allegations of money laundering and organised crime.

The launch took place online on Friday 16 October on the EP’s Facebook page. It was led by the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautala (Greens, FI), and MEP David Casa (EPP, MT). They were joined online by the murdered journalist’s son, Andrew Caruana Galizia, from Malta.

Malta Airport may open June 15

Malta airport could reopen on 15 June but decision still depends on agreement granted by the health authorities the Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli indicated.

Farrugia Portelli said the Prime Minister will be announcing an official date for reopening the airport in the coming days.

The target date has been set earlier, and all stakeholders agreed that a confirmation is needed as soon as possible, she continued.

“We have always said the airport should be closed until 15 June but we will continue assessing this with the health authorities,” she said on TVM’s Xtra on May 28 night programme, pointing to the government intention of mid-June reopening.

Farrugia Portelli underlined that there will be a summer vacation possible for the guests of the archipelago country.

“It will be a safer summer than ever before,” she said, adding that safety protocols will be introduced once the airport reopens.

Tourism operators have been waiting for the reopening of the airport and lifting of travel restrictions to encourage tourism, contributing to about 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). All travel came to standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Malta in March.

Malta medical experts have established 616 cases, 501 patients received treatment and recovered, but still 108 cases remain active. Seven from COVID-19 infections resulted in related deaths.

Malta ambassador resigns after verbal assault

Malta’s Ambassador to Finland has resigned after comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler in a public message in the context of Europe remembering the end of World War II.

Malta government ensured that the official apology will be send to Berlin.
The Maltese high diplomat to Finland resigned after comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler.

Michael Zammit Tabona’s anti-Merkel Facebook entry, posted on May 8, which was removed later.

The Foreign affairs minister Evarist Bartolo informed he had accepted the resignation of the Maltese businessman appointed as Malta’s ambassador to Helsinki in 2014.

In his message on Friday, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe, Zammit Tabona had posted: “75 years ago we stopped Hitler. Who will stop Angela Merkel? She has fulfilled Hitler’s dream! To control Europe.”
Maltese media reported May 10 that the offending post had since been deleted, and that Zammit Tabona could not be contacted for comment.

The Times of Malta newspaper said Zammit Tabona’s posting had been as non-residential and quoted Bartolo as saying he had instructed the ambassador to remove the comment “as soon as I was alerted to it.
The newspaper also quoted Maltese opposition leader Adrian Delia as saying that Zammit Tabona’s Facebook post was “unbecoming of an ambassador.”

Delia told the newspaper Angela Merkel had consistently backed Malta on various issues, describing her as a source of stability in Europe — seven decades after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Malta’s Chamber of Commerce, in a statement also carried by the newspaper, said Zammit Tabona’s remark had harmed the country’s reputation. It welcomed his resignation.
All persons holding public office and diplomats no less, should take extra care when expressing themselves, as the country’s reputation is no one’s to put in compromising situations,” the chamber reportedly said.

Relations between the two EU nations, Malta and Germany, are becoming increasingly complex over Mediterranean migrant flows and Eurozone debt.

Orban defends European identity

Hungary Prime Minister Victor Orbán has criticised Brussels’ intention to prevent László Trócsányi for obtaining position of European Commissioner, The former Minister of Justice was under fire of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee for his stance against immigration. The opinion of Prime Minister became public during his regular Friday morning interview on Kossuth Radio’s program Good Morning, Hungary.

The situation has not changed; László Trócsányi is an outstanding man, an internationally recognized lawyer, and an experienced diplomat. […] His only ‘sin’ is that he helped the Government–and me personally–to protect Hungary from immigration and ensured that no one could enter Hungary illegally without documents,Orbán said, adding that Hungary will never yield to the pressure of pro-migration forces.

The Prime minister confirmed that he had already begun talks with incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen about the issue. “There is a fierce struggle between those who oppose migration and those who support it. […]. It is a prime minister’s responsibility to think ahead, so I have a second, third, and fourth option up my sleeve,” the Prime minister continued.

Further developing issue of EU solidarity, Orban said that Hungary is ready to help Italy to cope with immigration. Although it will do so through border protection, not via distribution. “However, there are things that we cannot do,” PM Orbán warned. For example, “we will not help open ports, transport migrants, and distribute these people in Europe.” The position of government was explained in connection to last week’s visit to Rome,

Shifting the topic to the Maltese pact on migration, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the pro-migration forces intend to revive migrant quotas and force them upon EU member states. While Hungary will seek legal avenues to tackle the resurrection of the migrant quota system, PM Orbán expressed hope that the policy can be stopped in the European Council by the heads of state and government there.

There is only one continent that, by yielding to its suicidal tendency, does not protect its own identity. This continent is Europe,” the PM observed towards the end of his remarks, adding that the word distribution is in fact an invitation for immigrants.

Lifeline NGO imposes migrants on Malta

Italy‘s interior minister Matteo Salvini is refusing a German NGO rescue ship #Eleonore carrying 100 migrants an opportunity of docking. Matteo Salvini continues an effective policy of protection of Italy maritime border, as well as a strategy of the imposition of solidarity on the other EU member-states, leaving Rome for too long alone to resolve the problem of exodus of Africans from Sahel, the other conflict zones, and failed states of the continent.

According to the NGO the dingy 100 passengers were taken aboard “sinking” roughly 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the Libyan coast on August 26. (Image below: illustration).Migrants boat Libya coast

Captain Claus-Peter Reisch claims that the rescue had taken place “literally in the last second.” However, he added, “we still haven’t received a positive response from EU states.”

The charity Lifeline, which operates the 20-meter (65-foot) ship, Eleonore, has urged German government to assist in finding a safe harbor. However they warned that in case of an “emergency”, the boat will have to dock somewhere without a permission.

The politicians should deal with it quickly,” Lifeline spokesperson Axel Steier informed Germany’s Catholic news agency, KNA, “Otherwise, we’ll have to deal with it.

There are about 30 people who claim that they are minors, however in absence practice of birth certificate issuing in Africa, this information can not be verified. According to the World Bank 500 million Africans have no birth certificate, neither passport or identity card.

At present the vessel is next to Malta coast, which also refuses the docking, but delivered supply to the boat. The vessel is being supplied with water, couscous, apples, disinfectant and other basic necessities, as well as toys for children.

Film-maker Jonathan Schörnig reports on difficult conditions on the Eleonore. There is not enough space for all rescued people to sleep, however they try to cheer up with songs.

In two letters addressed to the Armed Forces of Malta (and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Interior Minister Michael Farrugia) and the other to the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Mr Avramopoulos, Lifeline says that following yesterday’s rescue, they would hope for a ‘swift and humane solution for the 101 people on board.’

So far the EU has not offered a plan of sharing the migrants, claiming asylum, among the member-states.

There were about 134,000 migrant arrivals to Europe in 2018, which is a decrease from 180,000 arrivals in previous year. Spain was the biggest destination in 2018, having received some 60,000 migrants. This compares to nearly 46,000 in Greece and 23,000 in Italy, according the the European Commission report monitoring the Mediterranean sea route.

 

‘Ocean Viking’ migrants enter EU

The Ocean Viking vessel which has been navigating in the Mediterranean for fortnight with migrants from Libyan coast on board will dock in Malta after six EU countries reached an agreement, France‘s interior minister said on August 23.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said France would receive 150 out of the 356 migrants from board of the Norwegian-flagged ship. He added Germany, Portugal, Romania, Luxembourg and Ireland were taking part in the agreement.

Ocean Viking, was stranded at sea for fortnight awaiting port access after being denied entry by Malta and requests to Italy did not receive any response.

Castaner announces the arrival of 150 migrants from the #OceanViking boat. He is Minister of the Interior: his duty is to protect our borders, not to help the illegals to cross them!” wrote Nicals Bay (France, RN), Member of European Parliament in his Twitter micro blog.

Mediterranea captain disobeys Italy orders

The Italian NGO Mediterranea‘s Alex migrant rescue vessel carrying 54 people picked up in  Libya waters on July 4 has been stopped off Lampedusa according to a landing ban issued by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, ANSA news agency sources said on July 5.

The vessel of the NGO, which by this time would have arrived in Malta that had given the availability of a safe harbor, breaks the law, ignores the prohibitions and enters Italian waters” Salvini wrote in his Twitter micro blog.

Salvini said the NGO vessel should navigate to Malta or elsewhere, in case it instists on entering Italian waters it would be regarded as an “act of violation“.
Malta offered a port to the ship but the Mediterranea at first said this was “unfeasible“, because of the state of the passengers exhausted by the trip.

The NGO underlined  that because the physical and psychological conditions of the migrants the instructions of Interior minister were impossible to fulfill.

However, Alessandra Sciurba, spokesman of Mediterranea Saving Humans, later communicated that the vessel was ready to transport the migrants at Malta.
It was reported that a Maltese navy ship was send for the Mediterranea to receive the migrants, but the NGO said that they did not have any information about this maneuver.

The Italian navy later offered to transport the Alex‘s migrants to Malta.
The Maltese government said Italy would take 55 migrants  in exchange for the 54 migrants Malta would take from the Mediterranea.

Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said it was right that the ship should go to Malta; the NGOs that used sailboats like the Mediterranea were “reckless”, he added.

 

Salvini trades barbs with Sea Watch NGO

 Italy Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has criticized the Sea-Watch NGO after it refused to take 52 migrants collected off Libya this week to Tripoli. The Sea Watch 3 vessel, which is close to the Italian island of Lampedusa, at one stage seemed to have turned towards Malta, but Salvini said it is not navigating there.

No Malta,” Salvini explained via Twitter micro blog. “The #SeaWatch NGO ship has changed route again: it is swaying in the Mediterranean playing a game on the backs of the immigrants, even though it asked for a port and obtained it in Tripoli.

We are witnessing the umpteenth show,Salvini continued his criticism of the NGO. “They say they are good, but they are kidnapping women and children in the middle of the sea”.

Sea-Watch refuses to anchor in Tripoli for safety reasons. “Forcibly taking rescued people back to a war-torn country, having them imprisoned and tortured, is a crime,” the German NGO said.

Meanwhile the Italian government, based on its right to protect sovereign sea borders the same way as land ones,  has endorsed a new decree that would apply to NGO ships with illegal migrants rescued at sea to Italy without official permission fined up to 50,000 euros.

Matteo Salvini rhetoric has hardened after his Lega party impressive victory in the European elections 2019, bringing him a approval of more than a third of the Italian electorate.

In spite of the Interior minister reluctance to accept illegal migrants, the NGO has been successfully using the combination international Conventions endorsed after the WWII dating from colonial era, and the Law of the Sea to continue imposing the flows of illegal migrants on Italy.

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