Monday

18th Feb 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers call climate change 'direct and existential threat'
  2. Seven MPs leave Britain's Labour Party
  3. Czech PM: May's EU elections 'most important ever'
  4. 'History will judge us': May tells MPs on Brexit
  5. Trump warns EU on release of Islamist fighters
  6. Venezuela expels 'conspiratorial' MEPs
  7. Holocaust dispute upsets Israel's EU lobbying
  8. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  2. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  3. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  4. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  5. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  6. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  7. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  8. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us