Tuesday

3rd May 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.

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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.

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