MALTA: Language rules for long-term residents spark EU legal action.

As published on timesofmalta.com, Thursday 17 June, 2021.

The European Commission has launched infringement proceedings against Malta’s laws that have different language requirements for people applying for long-term residency and those who attain citizenship by naturalisation.

While applicants for long-term residency must prove a certain knowledge of the Maltese language, applicants for Maltese citizenship by naturalisation can choose between providing evidence of their Maltese or English language skills.

Third-country nationals are eligible to apply for long-term residence status in Malta after five years of living here, entitling them to equal treatment as nationals in employment, education and other areas.

Citizenship by naturalisation is the process by which a non-Maltese person is granted citizenship if they are of Maltese descent, or if they are a beneficiary of the golden passport scheme.

In a ‘formal notice’ letter sent on June 9, the European Commission said that Malta had not correctly transposed the Long-Term Residents Directive.

The directive details the conditions under which non-European Union nationals can obtain long-term resident status and their right to equal treatment to support theirintegration. 

While member states have a certain discretion in establishing integration conditions, this was within the limits of the ‘principle of proportionality’.

“The additional language requirement for long-term residents does not comply with the principle of proportionality,” the commission wrote.

Proportionality requires member states to strike the right balance between preserving the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the treaties and member states’ margin of discretion to decide on how to protect a public interest objective.

The European Court of Justice states this balance must ensure that national measures are applied in a non-discriminatory manner.

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