Borg lauded and applauded after hearing
Tonio Borg yesterday received a resounding applause at the end of his three-hour grilling before three committees of the European Parliament, paving the way for his formal approval by the EP plenary next week in Strasbourg.
Visibly excited at the start of the political test of a lifetime, Dr Borg sailed through some 50 questions put to him by MEPs, some of them clearly intended to test his convictions and political principles.
However, despite the overall adversity of the first hour of questioning, Dr Borg remained calm, replying clearly and smoothly, so much so that the grilling turned into an almost friendly dialogue by the end of it.
“You have given a very good performance”, the meeting’s chair, Socialist MEP Matthias Groote, told Dr Borg in front of a packed meeting room at the end of the session.
“Dr Borg has replied brilliantly and confidently to all our questions and I can see no valid reason how his nomination can be turned down,” he told The Times soon after the meeting.
Malta’s Commissioner-designate was clearly in the line of fire when it come to same-sex couples, abortion, women’s reproductive rights and non-discrimination, with MEPs repeatedly harping on some of his past declarations and putting uncomfortable questions at the beginning aimed at swaying the hearing into negative territory.
However, Dr Borg kept to his brief, insisting that notwithstanding his personal beliefs and convictions he would fully respect the EU treaties on all these subjects.
“I am not going to abandon my personal views as I would be a hypocrite to do that,” he told MEPs to huge applause.
“However, I can assure you that I will be a European Commissioner and will fully respect European values as established in the EU treaties,” he said.
Dr Borg argued that certain health issues were clearly of the exclusive competence of member states and reiterated that he would do nothing to change the established practices as enshrined in the treaties.
Without entering into the controversy surrounding the forced resignation of his predecessor, John Dalli, Dr Borg promised that one of his first actions if confirmed would be to present the revised tobacco directive.
He also promised MEPs that he would propose legislation in the coming two years on the cloning of animals for food, novel foods, product safety, plant and animal health and access to bank accounts.
Dr Borg’s performance was closely followed by hundreds of EU functionaries, Parliament staff and journalists who invaded every corner of the large conference room while there was standing room only for others throughout the lengthy session.
All six Maltese MEPs were at the hearing together with high ranking officials from Malta’s permanent representation to the EU, Malta’s former permanent representative Richard Cachia Caruana, Dr Borg’s wife Adele and members of the former Commissioner’s cabinet.
Simon Busuttil and Louis Grech were the only two Maltese MEPs to put questions to Dr Borg.