There are several ways that a non-EU citizen can gain an EU passport. One is for your country to join the EU, as Croatia did in July and as many people in the Ukraine would like it to do. Another is to brave the arduous crossing of the Mediterranean and hope eventually to achieve political asylum. And another is to sign a cheque.

The plan by Malta to offer citizenship for €650,000 is not a new idea. Cyprus offers a passport for €3m and we in Britain have a process where people investing upwards of £1m eventually qualify for indefinite leave to remain, which in turn leads to citizenship. Other EU countries have other procedures for giving citizenship to people they want to attract.

But the Malta plan, launched last month by the new government, is more explicit than anything yet. You will be vetted, but apparently it should be a simple enough process. The Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, says that the plan is expected to attract “high value” individuals who will invest in the island. It is estimated that the deal will attract up to 300 people a year, and while the initial passport is just for one person, he or she can buy additional citizenship for their family at €25,000 a pop. Holders have full EU rights and can travel and work in any of the 28 member countries.

This may all seem a bit mercenary and in a way it is. But it reflects several realities of our modern world.