25 Apr 2014

How much does EU citizenship cost? The Maltese citizenship-for-sale affair: A breakthrough for sincere cooperation in citizenship of the union?

Sergio Carrera

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How much does citizenship in an EU member state cost? The outright selling of nationality by the Maltese government to rich foreigners has provoked considerable controversy and led to unprecedented responses by the European Parliament and the European Commission. This paper examines the affair and its relevance for current and future configurations of citizenship of the EU. It studies the extent to which member states are still free to lay down the rules for the acquisition and loss of nationality without any EU supervision and accountability and provides a comparative overview of member state schemes and the exact price for buying citizenship or residency permits in the EU.

The author finds that the EU’s intervention in the Maltese citizenship-for-sale affair constitutes a legal precedent for assessing the lawfulness of passports-for-sale or ‘golden’ migration programmes in other EU member states. The affair also reveals the increasing relevance of a set of European and international legal principles limiting member states’ discretion over citizenship matters and provides a constellation of supranational ‘venues’ for examining the impact of their decisions over citizenship of the Union.

Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs research unit at CEPS.