“When you start to sell your citizenship, you will sell anything.” These are the words of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & Grenadines – an island in the Caribbean. The main question which I would like to discuss in this post is to which price one shall value one’s own nationality.
I would like to start my reflections with a quote from Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship whereby the US Conference of Catholic Bishops state that “Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” Us Catholics are committed to be “salt for the earth, light for the nations”. Recently Bishop Scicluna has tweeted that “Silence is not an option.” We can’t stay silent on this one! I surely can’t!
What scares me is the fact that the offer by the Maltese Government, in order to promote investment in Malta will be in effect selling our OWN citizenship. The fact that by buying a passport one is entitled to all the rights enjoyed by birth, including voting, is scary to say the least. The only country in EU which currently has a similar scheme is that of Austria. Despite the system is similar, it ties very closely the investor to the country. To use the same verb as Bishop Scicluna: binds the investor with the country.
In our case: citizenship is truly a commodity. Even in the case of Austria, I am not at ease with the idea. Having a passport is not just having an entry pass from one country to another; it constitutes a major part of one’s identity. In my opinion, the document does not say that I am a Maltese only but with it carries the whole culture which forms part of the Matthew I am today.Nationality is not a mere field which one fills in Facebook when signing up a new profile but it is the embodiment of the culture, history, ideologies and mannerisms amongst other factors.
A Second Passport, according to ascot-advisory.com, another site similar to Henley & Partners is nothing but a “little booklet with a logo on the cover”. Is that it? Is that what us Maltese really believe about our own history and our own culture? Surveys seem to show that us Maltese still believe in our identity, and we are not ready to share it with other paying investors, whatever the price.
If this scheme boils down only to attracting investment, even this idea seems to be flawed according to Nuri Katz of Apex Capital Partners Corp., a competing organisation to Henley & Partners. Apex did not tender in the Maltese call for applications in the matter. Quoting his interview with timesofmalta.com he said that the Maltese “scheme has crossed the borders of decency and is putting at risk all citizenship programmes around the world”. Furthermore he is reported to have said that “no country in the world had a system like the one being proposed in Malta.” Even on this front I posit a question. If our own passport starts to be associated with random people, blacklisted or shadowy characters, does that mean that every time we approach a Passport control desk, we will be received with tension and doubt. The suffering party? Malta’s reputation!
Excerpts from sites such as Sergey Sander’s worry me: “The citizens of Malta may visit 163 countries of the world without visas. That fact puts the Maltese pass among the most desirable passports in the world.” This quote for me says it all: ‘Use our dear country as a stepping tool to enter the EU and good riddance with Malta.’ Even the Chamber of Commerce issued their opinion on this one. The Chamber, MaltaToday reports believes that, “as things stand, the IIP can affect Malta’s reputation about the soundness of the country’s fiscal and financial credibility.” Another Passport seller, mysecondpassport.com lists as the only requirement apart from the initial outlay of money, a yearly holiday in Malta. Surely that is not the right value for MY passport? The cherry on the cake quote? “NO TAX, NO LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT AND NO RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT” advertised on business-investor-immigration.com. This sums up the whole conundrum: Apply – Buy – Bye!
In conclusion, to answer Bishop Scicluna’s call for opinion I would like to conclude with my own view. I personally would never want that my own nationality shared with a few thousands of people now gets sold and shared with rich foreigners who see my identity merely as a convenience. My national identity, voted to be the ninth best in the world (CSB Report 2013) is not valued a few thousand Euros; it is unvalued. My national identity is what binds me to the rest of the Maltese nation, with its good and bad heritage. Surely such an important characteristic can and should never be offered to the market against a payment!
I would like to ask you to sound your opinion. Do you agree with the sale of OUR own citizenship?