Appointing Dalli seemed correct at the time – PM
Gonzi focuses on replacing commissioner
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday avoided making any direct comment on the resignation of European Commissioner John Dalli earlier this week and defended his decision to appoint him in 2010.
Focusing on the island’s need to make a new nomination “as swiftly as possible”, Dr Gonzi even declined to comment on the criticism Mr Dalli had levelled at his Government over the past two years although he “didn’t agree with many of the things Mr Dalli said”.
Asked whether with hindsight it would have been better if Mr Dalli had not been sent to Brussels instead of Joe Borg in 2010, Dr Gonzi defended his decision.
“I have no regrets that I took the decision I took. The decision to nominate Mr Dalli was taken in the circumstances of the time and I think that we continued to build on the good reputation Malta had acquired in the past.
“In life we can’t keep looking backwards. We now need to address the situation we are in and move forward as soon as possible,” he said.
When he returned to Malta a few hours later, he clarified his comments saying that he obviously regretted recent developments and the embarrassment caused to the country.
However, the Prime Minister added that appointing Mr Dalli had at the time “appeared to be the correct thing to do”.
Mr Dalli’s resignation earlier this week dominated the Brussels press conference given by the Prime Minister after a two-day summit meeting yesterday. Dr Gonzi said: “I have said what I had to say in Parliament and let’s now concentrate on the future,” he said.
“It is very important that we nominate as swiftly as possible a candidate to fill Mr Dalli’s seat because it is essential that a Maltese person sits at the table where crucial decisions are to be taken in the coming weeks.”
Discussions at European level are expected to focus on the crucial negotiations of the multi-annual framework – the EU’s next seven-year budget for 2014 and 2020.
Although discussions are normally conducted among member states, the European Commission acts as a broker in the horse-trading that takes place.
Asked whether he was comfortable with Mr Dalli directly attacking his Government despite being appointed European Commissioner, the Prime Minister declined to comment.
“I will not comment on Mr Dalli’s actions even though I don’t agree with many of the things he said.”
He admitted that European leaders had expressed concern following Mr Dalli’s unexpected resignation and said that he had again discussed the issue with Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
He gave no indication on whether he had started consultations on possible nominees or when the nomination would be made to Mr Barroso.
“We will announce our decision at the right time,” he said.
Sources in Brussels yesterday suggested that Foreign Minister Tonio Borg was expected to be nominated. He will likely keep Mr Dalli’s same portfolio of health and consumer affairs.
The matter is expected to be discussed at Monday’s Cabinet meeting.
The new nominee will have to be accepted by the European Parliament in a hearing to be held soon after his nomination. He will then have to be approved by the Council of Ministers – a formality – before taking office. Malta’s new commissioner will serve until the end of the current Commission’s mandate that ends in October 2014.