Wednesday, October 24, 2012 by Christian Peregin
Opposition leader Joseph Muscat yesterday endorsed Tonio Borg’s nomination as the country’s EU Commissioner but said his appointment should not be taken for granted.
I do not want the hearings of Dr Borg to be somehow overshadowed by any doubts on the Dalli case
Stressing his party would support Dr Borg’s nomination as John Dalli’s replacement, Dr Muscat said: “We never worked against the national interest and we never will.”
However, he then pointed out that the Foreign Affairs Minister had made certain “declarations” in the past which had already reached Brussels and would need to be “addressed”.
Dr Muscat did not give details about these declarations, but Labour sources have raised concerns about Dr Borg’s views on issues such as gay rights as a possible sticking point in Brussels, where he could face a tough grilling.
‘Uphill struggle’ for Malta
The implication is that Dr Borg may end up like Rocco Buttiglione, an Italian Christian Democrat whose nomination was withdrawn in 2004 amid objections over his views on homosexuality. In his case, however, his portfolio was to include civil rights, causing fears in the more liberal political groups that he would be able to block certain actions in this area due to his personal convictions.
Dr Muscat admitted he would have liked the nomination of a new EU commissioner to be conducted “a bit differently” but said this was the Prime Minister’s prerogative.
The Labour leader also said he disagreed with the Socialist group in the European Parliament that a new commissioner should not be appointed before the upcoming elections.
The post could not remain vacant, he said.
Hannes Swoboda, head of the group, last week said it would make sense to wait until the next general election before appointing a new commissioner.
Dr Muscat yesterday also called for the local investigation on Mr Dalli (who resigned last week following a report by the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF) to be prioritised by the authorities.
Dr Muscat, who took questions about the case of Mr Dalli during a press conference on energy issues, said this was what happened when Minister Chris Said had resigned to defend himself in court.
“I do not want the hearings of Dr Borg to be somehow overshadowed by any doubts on the Dalli case,” he said.
Asked whether he agreed with Mr Dalli’s claims that he was a victim of “GonziPN”, Dr Muscat said he would rather wait for more information before passing judgement.
“We need to know what this ‘circumstantial evidence’ is,” he said, adding that the case did not cast doubts on Labour or the PN but on Malta as a whole.
In fact, he said, it would be an “uphill struggle” for Malta to restore its image.