Wednesday

24th May 2017

Borg woos left-wing vote in EU parliament

Malta's would-be EU commissioner, Tonio Borg, has tried to dispel his image as a Roman Catholic hardliner in a bid to win MEPs' approval.

The 55-year-old politician said in his written reply to a European Parliament questionnaire: "I have, throughout my political career, fought for and defended European values as reflected in the Treaties, with their highest expression now contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He described himself as a champion of "equity and solidarity" in terms of healthcare access for the poor amid the economic crisis.

Referring to a draft tobbaco law prepared by his predecessor John Dalli, who lost his job over allegations that he solicited a bribe from a tobacco firm, Borg said he would submit a new bill "as soon as possible."

"My goal is to be ambitious while balanced, addressing deficiencies in the current legislation in order to facilitate the functioning of the internal market in tobacco ... and ensure a high level of health protection," he said.

His remarks come ahead of a three-hour hearing by parliament's environment, consumer protection and internal market committees on Tuesday (13 November).

MEPs will the following week vote in plenary on whether he is fit to take up the post.

The EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights says in article 21 that "any discrimination based on ... sexual orientation shall be prohibited."

Despite his pro-charter pledge, Borg has attracted fierce criticism from Liberal and centre-left deputies and NGOs for his track record on values.

His antagonists note that in 2008 he opposed a law on housing rights for same-sex couples in Malta.

He has also campaigned for anti-abortion laws and anti-divorce laws. His oversight of migrant detention centres in Malta while home affairs minister in 2002 saw over 200 Eritrean asylum seekers deported home, some of whom were later killed in prison.

Borg last week met with British centre-left deputy Michael Cashman, a leading gay-rights campaigner in the EU assembly.

"I ... pointed out the views he previously expressed would be incompatible with holding a high EU office," Cashman said in a statement afterward.

For her part, Swedish Liberal deputy and Lutheran minister Cecilia Wikstrom said in a YouTube interview: "As Liberals we will have to vote against him and I hope other groups will follow, because this is a candidate that non-conservatives can never accept. He is not welcome here."

Borg in his financial declaration to parliament also stated: "I do not have any business interests of any kind."

He noted he has about €80,000 worth of shares in various banks and investment funds. But he said he gave up his previous directorships in two Maltese firms - Media Link and Euro Tours - years ago.

The question of financial probity is an acute one given the manner of Dalli's departure. There is concern among anti-tobacco NGOs that unless the new commissioner is squeaky clean, it will give ammunition to the tobacco industry to delay EU legislation.

A former German politician, Lothar de Maiziere, recently accused Borg of improperly granting Maltese residency to an exiled member of the Kazakh elite - Rakhat Aliyev.

Borg dismissed the allegations as "gross calumny ... a lie ... scraping the barrel" in comments to Maltese media last week.

Correction: The original story said wrongly that Borg also met Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie In 't Veld

Macron and Merkel to 'reconstruct' the EU

The French and German leaders will present a common proposal to deepen and strengthen the EU and the eurozone. They say they are ready to change the EU treaties.

News in Brief

  1. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  2. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  3. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  4. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  5. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  6. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls
  7. France to host Russian president
  8. Switzerland votes against nuclear power

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  2. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  3. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  4. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not
  5. Transparency complaints keep EU Ombudsman busy
  6. EU sets out criteria for relocating UK agencies
  7. EU states back bill against online hate speech
  8. Dutch coalition talks collapse again