It’s the end of an era for new Commissioner Tonio Borg
Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg yesterday delivered his last speech in the House of Representatives, pledging to work for Europe while continuing to love Malta and never forgetting where he came from.
His absence would make his heart grow fonder, he said.
He admitted a sense of sadness at leaving behind the sensible debates he had been part of in the House, with all the surprises and traditions they had provided, and leaving the constituents of Balzan, Lija, Birkirkara, Mosta and Attard who had always returned him to Parliament.
Dr Borg said he could not agree more with ex-British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who said a week was a long time in politics.
In one week he himself was leaving Parliament as a Deputy Prime Minister and taking up his duties as a European Commissioner. He said he had never sought the new post because he had been happy in his work, but he could not turn his back on the Prime Minister’s call in unforeseen special circumstances.
In the 20 years he had spent in the House – after 10 years attempting to get in – he had always tried not to hurt anybody through the moments of difficulty, tension, disagreement, arguments and even harsh criticism.
His greatest honour and privilege had not lain in being a minister but an MP, because the seat had been given to him by the electorate.
Dr Borg said that under five different Speakers – Lawrence Gonzi, Myriam Spiteri Debono, Anton Tabone, Louis Galea and Michael Frendo – he had seen Malta becoming a worthy member of the EU and punching above its weight around the Union’s tables through different stages of historical developments.
His confirmation as EU Commissioner bore this out, even though he would have wished for a less laborious road there.
He expressed particular thanks to all the Opposition MPs who had shadowed him and other main speakers, including the whips of both sides. He felt he could not echo the late Pope John XXIII who, when asked how many people worked in the Vatican, had replied “about half of them”.
All parliamentary staff in Malta were hard and honest workers.
Dr Borg said he would be eternally grateful to Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi, who had shown faith in him since 1982 and from both of whom he had learnt a lot.
Purposely leaving his family last, he reserved his greatest appreciation for his wife Adele, with whom he had grown and matured in law and politics.
“She has always been a first-class customer care officer,” he said. He also thanked his children, apologising for not always having been there.
Dr Borg said his experience had shown that Maltese politicans were always close to the people. Without making them sound like martyrs, their sacrifices should be better appreciated.
The greatest satisfaction in politics lay in helping someone to get their due and initiating legislation that stood the tests of time.
Concluding, Dr Borg said his political life to date had been interesting and had matured him. It had not always been smooth but replete with memories, and he hoped to finish a book in Brussels that had been “in an advanced state for a very long time”.
He wished to see politics in Malta done with more smiles, with those involved taking their work more seriously than they took themselves. Their principles were to be upheld “because they make us what we are”.