Saturday

11th Jul 2020

Dalli lawyers say Barroso trampled his rights

  • Dalli at the Luxembourg court (Photo: EUobserver)

In the second and final day of a public hearing in the John Dalli vs. the European Commission case at the EU Court in Luxembourg, lawyers traded barbs about the legal basis on which the former commissioner left his job in disgrace in 2012.

Dalli says European Commission boss Jose Manuel Barroso pressured him into tendering his resignation, wants the court to annul it, and is seeking €1.9 million in “material damages” amid broader allegations he solicited bribes from the tobacco industry.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The money includes lost wages for the remainder of his term as commissioner.

His lawyers on Tuesday (8 July) said he was left no option but to resign, and that his fundamental right for a fair hearing was violated.

They say commission Barroso arranged a meeting on 16 October 2012 with the pre-meditated decision to get rid Dalli regardless of what Dalli said.

“He [Dalli] was facing a fait accompli,” Dalli’s lawyer told the panel of five judges.

They said Dalli went into the meeting with no knowledge of Barroso’s intentions, and that he had no opportunity to contest the tobacco graft allegations outlined in a report given to Barroso by the EU’s anti-fraud office, Olaf.

Dalli’s lawyers noted that Barroso should have invoked his EU treaty powers instead of psychological pressure if he wanted to make him leave.

But Barroso’s attorneys said the commission chief didn’t have to make reference to the treaty because Dalli resigned of his own free will without any coercion.

The niceties of Dalli’s departure are important in political and legal terms.

On a political level, a voluntary resignation has fewer reputational implications than a forced resignation.

On a legal level, a forced resignation requires the president to invoke article 17.6 in the treaty on the European Union.

The article states “a member of the Commission shall resign if the President so requests.”

Because Barroso did not invoke or make reference to the article, then the resignation is not valid, say Dalli’s side.

Dalli’s lawyers also noted that Olaf did not followed internal rules of procedure when it forwarded its report to the Maltese authorities without allowing the Olaf supervisory committee enough time review their investigation.

The supervisory committee was given one day to look at Olaf’s probe into Dalli.

It is supposed to have five days, and the committee, in an review published later, found major flaws.

Barroso should have asked himself if Olaf had conducted its investigation properly beforehand, say Dalli’s lawyers.

The commission had also prepared two draft press releases announcing Dalli’s resignation.

One, which was issued to the public, said he left office voluntarily. A second, which was not released, said he was forced to resign.

Dalli’s lawyers say the fact the commission had not prepared a third release contesting the Olaf allegations suggest Barroso had no other intention but to force him out.

The European Commission, for its part, dismissed all the arguments.

They said the commission has no legal right to approach the supervisory committee or contest Olaf in order to respect their full independence.

They also noted the committee’s five day review period is an informal agreement with Olaf and therefore has no legal bearing.

The commission lawyers said no third press release was prepared to defend Dalli because there is little news value in informing journalists that a commissioner had not left his post.

They added that Dalli was fully aware of the issues at hand when he met Barroso.

They point out Dalli had been interviewed twice by Olaf and spoken to Barroso once about the events over the course of several months from the launch of the investigation in May.

The commission, for its part, wants Dalli to drop the legal action and pay all associated legal costs.

A verdict is expected six to nine months down the line.

Malta's ex-commissioner loses court case against EU

John Dalli was ousted as European Commissioner for health in 2012 over a tobacco-lobbying scandal. On Thursday, the general court of the European Union dismissed his case against the European Commission.

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Parliament vaping booths 'too confidential' to discuss

The European Parliament is refusing to disclose documents on an internal debate on whether to set up e-cigarette smoking booths at its premises in Strasbourg and Brussels, posing questions on how it handles transparency on relatively minor issues.

EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

MEPs in January 2019 agreed to a rule change in a bid for greater transparency. The rules included requiring committee chairs to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists. EUobserver spoke to six chairs, who haven't done so yet.

News in Brief

  1. Citizens' perception of judicial independence drops
  2. Irish finance minister voted in as eurogroup president
  3. Italy's League party opens office near old communist HQ
  4. 'Significant divergences' remain in Brexit talks
  5. Germany identifies 32,000 right-wing extremists
  6. WHO to hold probe of global Covid-19 response
  7. China accuses Australia of 'gross interference' on Hong Kong
  8. EU to let Croatia, Bulgaria take first step to join euro

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Parliament vaping booths 'too confidential' to discuss

The European Parliament is refusing to disclose documents on an internal debate on whether to set up e-cigarette smoking booths at its premises in Strasbourg and Brussels, posing questions on how it handles transparency on relatively minor issues.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  2. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  3. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds
  4. MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform
  5. If EU wants rule of law in China, it must help 'dissident' lawyers
  6. Five ideas to reshape 'Conference on Future of Europe'
  7. EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece
  8. Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us