MALTA: Jurisdiction risks EU Court over language discrimination on citizenship.

As published on maltatoday.com.mt, Tuesday 7 February, 2023.

Malta must bring its national legislation in line with the European Union’s long-term Residency Directive, in an infringement case the Commission opened against the country.

Under current Maltese legislation, knowledge of Maltese language is mandatory for acquiring the long-term residency while for acquiring nationality, knowledge of English is sufficient.

The matter was raised by the Commission in 2020 with a letter of formal notice to Malta to address the issue. Brussels considers that the language requirements for acquiring long-term residence status in Malta are disproportionate compared to the requirements for acquiring Maltese nationality

The matter was followed up with an additional letter of formal notice in 2021, but Malta did not address the Commission’s concerns, which has now issued a reasoned opinion. Malta now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures, otherwise the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Under the Residency Directive, member states grant long-term resident status to non-EU nationals legally and continuously residing within its territory for five years immediately prior to their application.

Under Maltese legislation, applicants for long-term residency must prove a certain knowledge of the Maltese language, while applicants for Maltese citizenship by naturalisation have the choice between providing evidence of their Maltese or English language skills.

The Commission has argued that this additional language requirement for long-term residents does not comply with the principle of proportionality.

Although not cited by the Commission, Malta also sells Maltese citizenship-by-investment, which has no provision that imposes knowledge of the Maltese language on the part of paying applicants. In this case, the general provisions of the Maltese Citizenship Act apply, which means buyers of Malta’s ‘golden passports’ must have adequate knowledge either of the Maltese or the English language as the two official languages of Malta.

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