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Daniel Kawczynski is the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham and a former member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

The Government fast-tracking its Economic Crime Act through Parliament earlier this month was another strong move by an administration that has led from the front in clamping down on Russian influence in the UK since Ukraine’s borders were first breached.

While we must acknowledge Russian money has coursed through London’s veins for too long, let us also cast an eye over to Europe where the European Union has been undermined by the morally corrupt governments of its smallest nations.

Citizenship by investment schemes – more commonly known as ‘golden passports’ – have been peddled by the likes of Cyprus and Malta for many years. Between 2011 and 2019 130,000 individuals made use of these schemes, generating north of €21.8 billion for the fifteen nations selling their souls to the highest Russian oligarch bidder.

Golden passports are a slap in the face for the EU’s heavyweights that have welcomed their far smaller counterparts into the trading Bloc despite paltry economic contributions.

The European Parliament recently voted overwhelmingly to ban the golden passport, but still faced opposition from certain pockets of MEPs. Given the scheme has provided a window through which Russian influence has been able to seep through right under the nose of the EU, one must ask: how it was not stopped sooner?

First a nod to Cyprus. For a country with an annual GDP of $26.4 billion, the Cyprus Investment Program (CIP) brought in €9.7 billion in just seven years. In 2020 however, after extensive scrutiny from the EU and Cypriot citizens, the government cracked down on the programme.

However the country is still enjoying the fruits of Russian investment, despite distancing itself from past shady dealings, with over €100 billion in investments coming from Russia in 2020 alone. Cyprus’ economy is facing an existential crisis by cutting off this flow of investment, a clear indication of the hold an external power can have over smaller nations.

A more concerning case study lies in Malta, whose government has fought tooth and nail to stop the banning of golden passports as the Ukraine crisis has unfolded. As near as the day before the European Parliament announced they would be outlawed Robert Abela, the Prime Minister, was declaring the scheme would continue in all its glory. All four MEPs representing Malta’s ruling Labour Party voted against the bill.

Not even Roberta Metsola, the new President of the European Parliament and Maltese national who led efforts to ban golden passport schemes, could sway her compatriot. The EU’s inability to reign in a country with such close ties to its leadership lays bare the deficiencies of a bloc that falters when undermined by the sovereignty of its member nations.

Abela faces a general election next week that he is widely expected to win. A prime minister who has been accused of participating in fraudulent property deals involving an alleged kidnapper, and whose own wife has been revealed to have been active in the process of handing out golden passports, may have wooed voters, but he cannot be the antidote to rife corruption amongst the country’s elite.

So now the citizen-by-investment schemes have finally been suspended, is that job done? Not even close.

By expelling Russian influence and stemming the tide of investment, a vacuum will form. Smaller EU states are dependent on what has become institutionalised corruption, and without proper rehabilitation they will merely seek alternative suppliers in the form of equally hostile nations like China.

It is imperative that the West does not simply allow a changing of the guard from Russian to Chinese influence. Unfortunately, this may already be occurring.

It may surprise people to know that Malta enjoys ironclad ties to China that go back decades. In 2019, the Maltese government was among the first European states to sign up to China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. In the past year alone, Chinese exports to Malta skyrocketed by 367 per cent. Knowing which side their bread is buttered, Malta – alongside Cyprus – was one of four EU nations to refuse to condemn China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang last June.

This, of course, is part of a wider foreign policy directive from the Chinese government, quietly inflating its influence abroad in recent years through the sponsorship of key infrastructure projects. As the polarity of the world order continues to shift over the next decade, the West must be wary not to allow division to be sown by our adversaries.

The UK should take an active role in protecting and facilitating the rehabilitation of Malta and Cyprus who are, after all, fellow members of the Commonwealth. Golden passport schemes may have been scrapped, and Russian tendrils clipped, but that does not mean something bigger and nastier cannot grow in its place.