Malta backtracks, says it will identify buyers of its citizenship after outcry over secrecy

Malta's government has rolled back one element of its controversial law to sell its citizenship for 650,000 euros ($865,000), saying it will publish the names of people buying their way into European Union passports.

The government had argued that keeping the names secret would have brought in more money — the key goal of the initiative. But the government withdraw the secrecy clause "after listening to the people," according to a statement late Sunday.

Opposition lawmakers and ordinary Maltese had argued that keeping the names secret could have exposed Malta to ill-intentioned citizenship-seekers, including possible terrorists.

The opposition Nationalist Party, which has vowed to repeal the law and revoke all the citizenships sold if the party returns to power, said the government only backtracked after "negative" international media reports about the law. Nationalist lawmakers are also considering a petition drive to force a referendum to repeal the law.

Citizens of EU-member Malta can freely enter and reside in any of the other 27 EU member states.

The citizenship legislation, which enables foreigners to buy a Maltese passport without any residency or investment requirements, was signed into law on Friday by President George Abela. It goes into effect when published as a legal notice.