Maltese designate Commissioner Tonio Borg yesterday continued meeting MEPs from different political groups in Brussels to win their support ahead of Tuesday’s crucial hearing in front of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.

I’m very, very hurt… it’s absolutely preposterous

After an early courtesy visit to European Parliament president Martin Scultz – an influential MEP and ex-Socialist group leader – Dr Borg held meetings with MEPs from the European People’s Party, the Socialists and the Liberals.

He explained his position on health and consumer affairs and previous political declarations he had made, particularly on homosexuality.

EP sources yesterday told The Times: “At this stage there are doubts as to whether Dr Borg will manage to pass the EP hurdle, particularly as attacks on him have increased in the past hours.”

Following negative media reports about his strong personal religious views, the campaign to swing a vote against him continued relentlessly with the publication of a story in international media alleging Dr Borg’s involvement in bribery.

This story was also raised during a European Commission press briefing in Brussels this week when a journalist asked if the Commission was aware of German MEPs investigating allegations that Dr Borg received a €150,000 bribe to give a residence permit to billionaire Rakhat Aliyev.

The Commission spokeswoman was not aware of it. Mr Aliyev, a former Kazakh deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Austria who now lives in Sliema, faces accusations of human rights abuses and torture and is suspected of involvement in the murder of two bankers.

Dr Borg told The Times it was the first time he heard the bribery allegations and he had never met Mr Aliyev: “This is crazy. No one in my life ever made such allegations. I’ve been in politics for so long and that someone even thinks I’d take one cent for something I do is slanderous and pushed by people unhappy with my nomination.

“I’m very, very hurt… it’s absolutely preposterous,” he said, adding he may take legal action.

Dr Borg said, as he had told the media before, that Mr Aliyev was granted residency as he was married to an Austrian woman and had a right to reside in any EU country.

Until now, Dr Borg could only rely on the vote of the EPP MEPs, which is not enough to get through. The support of the Socialist group is far from certain, even though The Times was informed Labour MEPs are trying to convince their colleagues in the Brussels chamber.

Dr Borg was nominated to replace John Dalli, who resigned following a tobacco lobbying scandal. Dr Borg’s appointment hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in the European Parliament.

If there is a negative vote Malta must nominate another commissioner designate. Dr Borg’s approval will have to be rubberstamped by the EU’s Council of Ministers before he can take over the Health and Consumer Affairs portfolio.

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