Malta: MEPs prepare to grill Tonio Borg
Reposted from European Voice: http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/meps-prepare-to-grill-tonio-borg/75481.aspx
Malta's nomination for Commission to face hearing.
Malta's nominee to replace ousted health commissioner John Dalli, Foreign Minister Tonio Borg, will face a grilling by MEPs on the European Parliament's health committee on 13 November, Parliament co-ordinators decided yesterday (24 October). This will most likely be followed by a vote of the full parliament the following week.
The European Commission has said the Parliament will only be consulted on the appointment, since under the treaties the decision is to be made by member states “in agreement with the Commission president, after consulting the European Parliament”.
Yesterday, Commission President José Manuel Barroso informed Parliament President Martin Schulz that he intends to appoint Borg as the health and consumer policy commissioner – the portfolio that Dalli held. In the meantime, Maroš Šefcovic , the commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration, is taking temporary charge of the dossiers.
Borg, a non-smoker, will likely be grilled on his stance on tobacco and other health policies. He will also be asked about his ability to resist a powerful lobby like the tobacco industry and his commitment to put forward a proposal to revise EU rules on tobacco by the end of the year as originally planned.
But non-health issues may become a large feature of the discussions. Borg is known within Malta for his ultra-conservative stance on social issues and his close ties with the Catholic Church. He has campaigned in favour of inserting the abortion ban currently in Malta's criminal code into the country's constitution, so that it cannot be annulled by a court.
In 2009, he was vocal in his objection to a plan by the Labour Party to recognise same-sex couples in the country's laws on rented accommodation.
Most controversially, Borg is the architect of Malta's much-criticised system of detention for illegal immigrants. He was also in charge of a notorious expatriation case in 2002 when Eritrean asylum-seekers were expelled and later allegedly subjected to torture in Eritrea.
Italy was forced to withdraw the nomination of a conservative Catholic minister, Rocco Buttiglione, in 2004 because of his positions on homosexuality and women's rights. But this was a nomination for the position of justice commissioner, which involves protecting fundamental rights.
Socialist group leader Hannes Swoboda said his party intends to question Borg on these issues. “If he is not committed to the values and principles of the EU, including the charter of fundamental rights, then I have no reason to support him,” he said yesterday.
“It is not about ‘socialist' values. It is about the values of the European Union. The president of the Commission has a duty before proposing him to the Parliament to look; he has to stick up for the values.”