Meaning of Tonio Borg vote
As you read this article, I am in Strasbourg to vote for Tonio Borg’s nomination as a member of the European Commission.
I will proudly represent you in voting in favour of Tonio.
The vote follows a hearing that was held last week with the new Commissioner-designate.
At the hearing Tonio performed brilliantly, sailing from one tough question to another and tackling all the difficult issues in a clear, honest and composed manner. Not even his fiercest critics could fault his performance, his credentials or his ability to successfully undertake the functions of a Commissioner.
My group, the EPP Group, which is the largest political group in Parliament with 270 votes, promptly announced its support for Borg and my colleague David Casa and I made sure of that. The group of European Conservatives are expected to do likewise.
So why is it that, at least as I write, the vote is still too close to call?
The reason is that ever since his nomination, rumours spread like wildfire from Malta to Brussels about Borg’s views on ethical and moral issues. And a number of political groups in the European Parliament – the Liberals, the Greens, the Communists and to a large extent also the European Socialists – quickly rose up in arms.
They vehemently attacked Borg not so much on his performance or his ability to take on the post – they could not – but on his views on issues such as abortion and gay rights.
Now these issues are manifestly outside the portfolio that he was assigned by Commission President José Manuel Barroso and to a large extent also outside the competence of the European Union itself.
Even so, Borg replied by giving assurances that he will be respecting diversity and the principle of non-discrimination. He gave reassurances based on European law and values and he pledged his allegiance to the EU’s Human Rights Charter – not that he needed to, being himself a professor in human rights.
Crucially, he told us in the hearing that he was not coming to Brussels to impose his values. But nor was coming to abandon them.
So today’s vote has been dramatically distorted.
It seems that, for these political groups, the vote is not about whether Borg is fit for the job but about whether a person embracing his values can be acceptable to them.
This is the long and short of it.
I find this distortion highly objectionable because it is the opposite of what Europe stands for.
The European Union is based on the principle of unity within diversity. This means that 500 million people live together in the EU because they respect each other’s diversity.
Unity within diversity does not mean that we are the same or that we should all be the same. It means that we are together because we learn to accept each other’s differences.
I believe that the attacks against Borg over the past weeks by these political groups went against this basic principle of unity in diversity.
Ironically they were led by so-called ‘liberals’ who claim to act in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination while doing the exact opposite. The Greens went so far as saying that they would vote to reject Borg because they have a problem with his “philosophy of life”.
Ironic indeed. For on this basis there is no difference between the staunch conservatism which harboured discrimination and intolerance for so many years in Europe and these so-called ‘liberals’ attacking Borg. They are both forces which destroy unity in diversity and replace it with bigotry.
In my book it is not acceptable for someone to reject Borg simply because he does not agree with his views or because he does not share his beliefs or because he does not tolerate his values.
After all, Borg’s values are my values.
The moment we stifle diversity we would be destroying unity. And in destroying unity we would be destroying the very fabric that makes up the European Union.
This is exactly what those attacking Borg are doing at the moment.
Last week he showed that he is fit for the job and that he is going to respect unity in diversity.
On this basis and on this basis alone, today he should be voted into office. And I hope that in today’s vote tolerance will prevail over intolerance, reason will prevail over extremism and fairness will prevail over prejudice.
I hope that today’s vote will be a well-deserved victory for Tonio Borg. But more importantly, I hope that it will be a victory for common sense and for the basic principle that has kept Europe united for more than half a century. The principle of unity within diversity.
Simon Busuttil is a Nationalist MEP.