Monday

26th Sep 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.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Brexit: preparing for a bitter divorce

Conservatives Brexiteers and Labour leadership are increasingly leaning away from the Norwegian-style deal with the EU, towards a UK-specific arrangement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  2. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  3. Martens CentreQuo Vadis Georgia? What to Expect From the Parliamentary Elections. Debate on 29 September
  4. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List
  5. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  6. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  7. World VisionUN Refugees Meeting a Wasted Opportunity to Improve the Lives of Millions of Children
  8. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  9. YouthProAktivEntrepreneurship, Proactivity, Innovation - Turn Ideas Into Action #IPS2016
  10. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeDon't Miss the Mega Conference to Master Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. ACCAKaras Report on Access to Finance for SMEs in a Capital Markets Union