21st Mar 2018

Malta's new EU commissioner survives 'witch-hunt'

  • Borg put down his success to calm under fire in his hearing (Photo: European Parliament)

Malta's soon-to-be EU health commissioner has overcome concerns about his Roman Catholic views to win MEPs' approval by a clear majority.

Three hundred and eighty six mostly right-leaning deputies voted Yes on Wednesday (21 November) against 261 No votes and 28 abstentions.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The decision turned into a nail-biter after the centre-left S&D group said on Tuesday it would not support him. It let its members vote freely in the secret ballot, with enough S&D deputies going against the group line to get him through, however.

Speaking to EUobserver from Malta after the vote, Borg put down his victory to the way he handled MEPs' questions at a hearing last week.

"I knew there were certain rumours and certain official comments but I was sure of the approval in spite of this because of my performance at the hearing. MEPs voted with their consciences and this is why I was successful," he said.

The hearing saw Liberal and Green deputies accuse him of homophobia and backward-looking views on contraception.

But time and again, Borg pledged to respect the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights on non-discrimination and said his private views would not get in the way of his work.

His antagonists on Wednesday said they will watch him like a hawk.

"His views on homosexuality, divorce, abortion and the scientific use of tissues and cells have been well reported and ... [he] made no attempt to deny his opinions on social issues of great importance," British Liberal deputy Chris Davies said.

"If he remains in charge of public health, we will be scrutinising his decisions and statements on these areas very closely," he added.

For its part, the centre-right EPP group said the result is "a victory of reason over intolerance and ideological partisanship."

Borg himself had earlier told this website he felt like the victim of a "witch-hunt."

He voiced relief on Wednesday, adding that scrutiny is nothing new for him after two decades in politics. "Now that this is over, I look forward to working with all the groups, all the members of parliament ... I have been scrutinised all my life and I expect to continue to be scrutinised," he said.

His nomination - due to be rubber-stamped by EU countries in the next few days - comes after his predecessor, John Dalli, lost his post in a tobacco lobbying scandal.

Dalli is currently under investigation by Maltese police on suspicion of soliciting a bribe.

He has indicated that his fall was engineered by the tobacco industry in order to stop his draft tobacco control directive, which proposed measures such as forcing cigarette makers to use plain packs and making retailers take down point-of-sale displays.

Borg has promised to get commission approval for the the bill in January.

Asked by this website if he plans to make any changes to Dalli's draft, he said: "I will certainly not weaken the text in any way."

Labour wins by a landslide in Malta

Joseph Muscat's Labour party romped to victory in Malta's general election on Sunday, ending fifteen years in opposition.

Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case

The European Commission repeated that it followed the rules when its former head joined Goldman Sachs - and suggested it will not follow the EU Ombudsman's demand to refer the case back to the ethics committee.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders expected to approve Brexit future talks guidelines
  2. Tusk: EU must 'continue to engage' with US on trade
  3. European elections set for 23-26 May 2019
  4. EU tries to find common candidate for top UN food job
  5. Facebook post triggers Norway no-confidence vote
  6. Merkel: 'no reason' to sanction Schroeder for Russia support
  7. MEPs and Council strike deal on posted workers' rights
  8. EU parliament to investigate Facebook data 'breach'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverHiring - Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience - Apply Now!
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?