Wednesday

26th Sep 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.

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 will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

News in Brief

  1. No UK election before Brexit, says May
  2. Former French PM wants to be mayor of Barcelona
  3. Merkel's wingman in surprise defeat in internal party vote
  4. Orban sends thank-you letters to supportive MEPs
  5. UN chief: World suffering from 'trust deficit disorder'
  6. Stalemate in Sweden as parliament ousts prime minister
  7. Migrant rescue ship heading to French port
  8. EU angry at British tabloids on Brexit

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. World upside down as EU and Russia unite against US
  2. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  3. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  4. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  5. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  6. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  7. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  8. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us