Tuesday

23rd Apr 2019

Would-be commissioner takes step toward EU approval

  • Borg on Tuesday: 'I have not come here to abandon my personal views. That would be hypocritical' (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

A leading critic of Malta's would-be EU commissioner has said he will back him after his answers on gay rights at a European Parliament hearing.

British centre-left MEP Michael Cashman - who co-chairs parliament's gay rights "Intergroup" - said in a statement on Tuesday (13 November): "I do remain concerned about Tonio Borg's track record. But given the reassurances he has given us on fundamental rights, I believe we could entrust him with the public health portfolio."

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

Two other Intergroup leaders - Dutch Liberal deputy Sophie in 't Veld and Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek - took the opposite view.

"He gets a clear No from me," In 't Veld said. "We do not trust him to work for all EU citizens regardless of their gender and of their sexual orientation," Lunacek noted.

Group leaders are digesting the hearing on Wednesday morning.

But if Cashman's S&D political family votes together with Borg's centre-right EPP faction in plenary next week, the Maltese politician will become the EU's top official on health and consumer affairs.

Civil liberties became a big issue after left-leaning MEPs highlighted that Borg had in the past opposed a Maltese law on housing rights for gay couples.

The issue was toxic enough to send an Italian candidate, Rocco Buttigilione, packing in 2004 when MEPs branded him a homophobe.

For his part, the Roman Catholic Borg told deputies on Tuesday: "I have not come here to abandon my personal views. That would be hypocritical and you would see through me immediately if I were to do that."

He noted that he steered through a bill to let same-sex couples get legal status in Malta's civil registry and he denied ever making anti-gay remarks, however.

"This [the civil register law] is a big step forward in my view ... I never made disparaging remarks, including one that has been circulated that 'one has to put up with gays.' I never said that. You can check the parliament transcript [in Malta]," he said.

He repeatedly pledged respect for the EU's Charter of Fundamental rights, whose article 21 forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"I shall chart my course on the Charter of Fundamental Rights ... this is something which I cherish," he said.

He also played to left-leaning sensibilities by backing draft commission proposals for gender-based quotas in European companies.

When asked how he feels about genetically-modified food and stem cell research, he said: "I will let science be my guide when making difficult decisions." And he voiced sympathy for animal rights, alternative medicines and HIV sufferers.

Borg's nomination comes after his predecessor, John Dalli, lost his post over allegations that he solicited a bribe from the tobacco industry.

The affair blew up when Dalli finalised his draft of a tobacco-control bill, with some health campaigners worried that his demise was engineered by the tobacco lobby in order to delay the law.

Borg went out on a limb by saying he is against forcing tobacco firms to use plain packaging - a leading provision in Dalli's directive.

"I believe tobacco products should look ... like tobacco products," Borg said.

But he slammed the industry as a killer of young people and promised to get European Commission agreement on his own draft law by January, with adoption by 2014 if MEPs agree.

"The tobacco directive is not dead. Indeed, it is alive and kicking," he said.

"I have checked these dates. I have checked these timetables. And I must say this was endorsed by the President of the commission. This can be delivered," he added.

Left-wing MEPs unimpressed by Borg

Euro deputies have given mixed views on Tonio Borg, Malta’s candidate for EU commissioner on health and consumer affairs.

EU parliament backs whistleblower law

MEPs backed an EU law to protect whistleblowers from retaliation in both the public and private sectors. EU states will have two years to transpose the directive.

EU commission to map gender recognition

The European Commission will start looking at how EU states determine genders - as part of an effort to make it easier for people to determine their own identities.

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us