Democracy is defined as “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives” – this is the classical definition given by the Oxford Dictionary. While the actual words change depending on which institution is giving the definition, the essence of the meaning does not change. In any democratic nation, a government has the responsibility to govern in the name of its constituents, the citizens of the nation. The ‘Citizenship for Sale’ issue that has dogged Maltese and International headlines over the past couple of weeks has reached its pinnacle with a recent non-binding vote at the European Parliament. Despite the overwhelming opposition to the sale of European citizenship, the Maltese government has chosen to ignore the calls of its constituents and of our European peers, thereby ushering a new era of demockracy.
While I had already compared the original Individual Investors Programme (IIP) on its publication, the programme had since been cosmetically revised. However, the citizenship for sale notion that many people had opposed still persists, sparking a European wide debate in the European Parliament.
89% of Members of the European Parliament voted against the sale of European citizenship, a widespread consensus amongst the EPP, Socialist, Liberal (ALDE) and Green parliamentary groups. Despite this non-binding vote, the Maltese government has still decided to pursue this insane venture.
It is quite inconceivable that in 2014 any European government behaves so irresponsibly in the face of widespread concern. While the activists of the IIP argue that such programmes are already implemented in other EU member states (Portugal, Austria, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and the UK to name a few), it is a blatant lie. No other EU member state has put the actual sale of passports on the table, but they merely use long term residence or investment programmes that bind would be investors to the country through a long term ‘contract’. That is the only reason why Malta was mentioned during the European Parliamentary debate, because it is the first country pioneer to the idea.
Even though the government is now blaming the Opposition for slandering the name of Malta in a bid to divert attention from itself, it is highly illogical that the same party that got us into the EU will now work to destroy that country’s image.
From Turkey, to Ukraine to Malta?
2013 saw two incidents in two prospective EU member states that exposed their respective government’s authoritarian ways, both which were bitterly received by the foreign press.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the development of a key park in Istanbul into a shopping complex. Demonstrators had held a four-day sit-in at Gezi Park, visibly angry at the plans to redevelop this area located in the proximity of Taksim Square. The situation escalated to shocking crowd control by Turkish riot police, which according to foreign news agencies highlighted a flawed political system with undemocratic undertones.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich failed to sign a landmark deal between Ukraine and the EU, sparking nation protests by citizens who felt cheated and ignored by their representative from a ‘future as Europeans’. The Ukrainian government has just passed a sweeping law to remove protestors from the streets, effectively removing the voice of opposition.
It is regrettable that the Maltese government is mimicking the Yanukovich and Erdogan ideology of ignoring public calls for the cessation of this Citizenship for Sale scheme. If the government was serious about democracy, it would not ignore the will of the people that voted it in and that subsequently polled against this scheme (according to the MaltaToday survey, only 26% agree with the scheme, while 53% disagree).
Despite the fact that democracy thrives on a healthy and balanced debate on any issue, the government of Malta chooses to ignore this.