23rd Oct 2016

Left-wing MEPs unimpressed by Borg

  • Malta's candidate for EU commissioner on health fails to impress left-leaning MEPs (Photo: European Parliament)

Euro deputies have given mixed views on Tonio Borg, Malta’s candidate for EU commissioner on health and consumer affairs.

Socialist group leader Hannes Swoboda said on Wednesday (14 November) his group would support Borg's candidacy but remained concerned by his conservative stand on homosexuality and women's reproductive 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.

The Roman Catholic candidate told deputies on Tuesday during a hearing that his personal beliefs would not interfere with his role as commissioner and that he would respect the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

“We just have his word for it at this point and many members are still concerned about whether he would actually follow this line once his appointment was confirmed,” said Swoboda in a statement.

Borg’s "word" did not convince some in Swoboda’s group.

British socialist MEP Michael Cashman, who co-chairs parliament's gay rights “Intergroup,” says he cannot back the Maltese candidate.

“I have given this a lot of thought, and given the doubts expressed to me by many - and especially by women who feel strongly about his negative track record on sexual and reproductive health rights – I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot endorse Tonio Borg for the European Commission,” said Cashman.

Borg, whose native Malta is socially conservative and forbids abortion, was also unable to convince members in the Greens and the liberal Alde group.

Both vowed to reject his candidacy for commissioner.

The left-leaning factions found his past views on civil liberties did not fit with a role as the EU’s top post on health-related matters.

“His views on homosexuality, divorce, abortion, and the scientific use of tissues and cells have been well reported and,while he stated his opposition to discrimination and support for human rights, Dr Borg made no attempt to deny his opinions on social issues of great importance,” said British liberal Chris Davies.

Greens co-presidents Rebecca Harms and Daniel Cohn-Bendit said Borg was unable to dispel their concerns over his personal convictions.

“Many of the answers given in the hearing were evasive where clarity was needed, particularly given the context of his previous statements,” they said.

The centre-right EPP group, for its part, said Borg’s record as a foreign minister and leader of Malta’s house of representatives are valuable experiences for the commissioner seat.

“We will support him,” said Austrian centre-right MEP Richard Seeber.


Cyprus seeks EU support on reunification

EU states should be "more vocal" with Turkey and play a more political role on reunification, Cyprus' EU ambassador told EUobserver.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity