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Dalli named to EU post

Dalli held various ministerial positions

Social Policy Minister John Dalli, who five years ago unsuccessfully challenged Lawrence Gonzi for the leadership of the Nationalist Party, will be Malta's next EU commissioner, succeeding Joe Borg.

The announcement was made by the government last night ending weeks of speculation. The government said the decision to appoint Mr Dalli was taken by Cabinet yesterday and was communicated to European Commission president José Manuel Barroso by Prime Minister Gonzi later.

Mr Dalli, 61, met Mr Barroso in Brussels last week when his pending nomination is known to have been discussed although neither Brussels nor Valletta would officially confirm it.

Dr Gonzi reportedly had two other candidates in his shortlist for commissioner: Dr Borg, the first Maltese to be nominated commissioner after Malta joined the EU on May 1, 2004, and Richard Cachia Caruana, Malta's Permanent Representative to the EU.

Some may argue that Mr Dalli has been "kicked upstairs" given the sort of relationship known to have existed between him and Dr Gonzi over the past few years - notably in the wake of the leadership race after Eddie Fenech Adami stepped down as PN leader in early 2004 - and also Mr Dalli's "forced resignation".

An accountant by profession and hailing from Qormi, he was first elected to Parliament in 1987, the year the PN returned to power after 16 years of Labour rule, and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Industry. He served as Minister for Economic Affairs between 1990 and 1992 and Finance Minister from 1992 until 1996 when the PN lost the election. Alfred Sant's Labour government would only last 22 months and Mr Dalli was then appointed Minister of Finance and the Economy in 1998, a post he held until 2004, when he became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Investment promotion in the new government headed by Dr Gonzi.

Mr Dalli resigned from the Cabinet on July 3, 2004 saying he was unable to work effectively due to attacks from "different quarters". He was re-elected as MP in the March 2008 election and was appointed Social Policy Minister.

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