EU commissioner goes off-message on Gaddafi
04.03.11 @ 13:57
BRUSSELS - Maltese EU commissioner John Dalli has made comments which appear to support Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi and which flatly contradict those of Mr Dalli's boss, Jose Manuel Barroso.
Speaking to press at an event organised by the Malta Business Bureau on Friday (5 March) morning in Malta, the EU health commissioner, who has a long history of business links with Libya, said he "didn't think [he] had the right, or anyone else, to make a statement on whether he [Gaddafi] should step down."
He added: "I think Gaddafi should make his own decisions. He has the assessment of the people, as he has said on TV ... I think Gaddafi has made the first attempt towards conciliation."
Mr Dalli said he is "in no way" a defender of Gaddafi and condemned the violence in Libya. But he then repeated the Libyan leader's own line that outside forces are manipulating media coverage of protests.
"The US admitted that they have lost the race for information in Libya - this, and the way information is getting out, is problematic," he said. "Sometimes doubt creeps into one's head when seeing people speaking perfect English and hoisted up by a group of people made to look like a crowd. I wonder if they might be shots 'created' for journalists."
Mr Dalli's comments flatly contradict the position taken by Mr Barroso in a speech in Brussels two days ago.
"It is time for him [Gaddafi] to go and give the country back to the people of Libya," Mr Barroso said. "It is our duty to say to the Arab people that we are on their side."
A Dalli spokesman told this website that he had not seen the Friday morning quotes, but that anything Mr Dalli might have told local press in Malta is not necessarily his official view as an EU commissioner.
The 62-year-old Mr Dalli has built up close personal links with the Libyan regime over the past two decades.
In 2004 he set up John Dalli & Associates, a consultancy firm which specialised in opening doors for Maltese businessmen in Libya and which had an office in Tripoli. He also worked as a director in the Azizia Glass Manufacturing Company (AGMC), which has a multi-million-euro factory in the north African dictatorship.
He quit AGMC and John Dalli & Associates when he became a Maltese minister in 2008. But he kept John Dalli & Associates in the family by handing the business to his daughters and he still owns a house in Tripoli.
In his own online biography posted in 2008 he spoke about his work for the Libya Maltese Joint Commission in the 1987 to 1996 and 1998 to 2004 periods when Libya was under UN sanctions.
He said that "levels of economic activities between the two countries increased" despite the UN measures. He added that he had "established a strong network at the political and executive levels of that country."
At another business event in Valetta in 2007, he said: "Malta had served as a gateway between Libya and the outside world during the days of international sanctions ... Business with Libya means business in Libya and face-to-face contact is essential."