As from 1st May, 2004, EU nationals can open any kind of business they wish in Malta.
In its negotiating position paper Malta said that it “will ensure that on accession the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services will apply equally to Maltese and EU natural or legal persons”.
Upon membership, any Maltese company or individual may set up business in any EU country. Inversely, any EU citizen will have the right to set up a business in Malta. This does not apply to traders from non-EU countries where current restrictions will continue to apply.
There are reasons why a difference was made between employed workers and self-employed individuals.
First of all, it is known that the actual movement of self-employed within the EU is even more limited than that of workers. In Malta, it is also known that the local market is small and rather saturated. This gives less incentive for foreign self-employed to set themselves up permanently in our country. For obvious reasons of size, there is more incentive for business to use Malta as a base for export to the EU market, than to penetrate the Maltese market alone. After membership, Malta will shed the last remaining obstacles that still limit our access to the EU market.
But there is more to it than that. Unlike employed individuals, self-employed are subject to additional national rules relating to setting up and operation of business. This makes setting up for a self-employed individual not as straightforward as the exercise of the right to seek employment.