MPs back bill establishing national FDI screening office

A bill which establishes the National Foreign Direct Investment Screening Office, in line with a 2019 EU directive, was approved unanimously by Parliament in its second reading.

Following interventions by Nationalist Party MPs Claudio Grech and Joe Ellis and Minister Carmelo Abela, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri took just a minute to wind up debate, simply highlighting the bill’s non-controversial nature.

The relevant EU legislation – EU 2019/452 – had been adopted in March last year, and calls for the establishment of FDI screening offices which would serve to screen investment hailing from outside the EU.

Such screening is to be carried out to determine whether a foreign direct investment is likely to affect security or public order.

The EU legislation determines that the screening offices needed to consider the investment’s potential effects on critical infrastructure – including energy, transport, water, health and communications. In his remarks, Grech highlighted that the controversial Vitals hospitals concession would have failed screening, not least because its ultimate beneficial owner could not be satisfactorily determined.

Member states also needed to consider the proposed investment’s potential effects on critical technologies, the supply of critical inputs, access to sensitive information, and the freedom and pluralism of the media.

They are also required to notify the EU of any foreign direct investment that is undergoing screening.