20 Feb 2015

The Price of EU Citizenship: The Maltese Citizenship-for-Sale Affair and the Principle of Sincere Cooperation in Nationality Matters

Sergio Carrera


How much does European citizenship cost in the EU? This was the question that has raised so much controversy over the Maltese citizenship-for-sale programme. The outright selling of Maltese nationality to rich foreigners led to unprecedented responses by the European Parliament and 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 grounds for the acquisition and loss of nationality without any EU supervision and accountability. It is argued that the EU’s intervention in the Maltese citizenship-for-sale affair constitutes a legal precedent for assessing the lawfulness of passport-for-sale programmes in other EU Member States. The affair has also revealed the increasing relevance of a set of European and international legal principles limiting Member States’ discretion over citizenship matters and providing a supranational constellation of accountability venues scrutinizing the impact of their decisions over citizenship. The Maltese citizenship-for-sale affair has placed at the forefront the EU general principle of sincere cooperation in nationality matters. Member States’ actions in the citizenship domain cannot negatively affect in substance the concept and freedoms of European citizenship.

Journal: Maastrich Journal of European and Comparative Law, No. 2014-3