Sunday, 25 November 2012

Malta Today: Updated | Socialists: 'Borg left many open questions'

Socialists vote to reject Borg in internal meeting vote, but allow MEPs free vote.
Wednesday 21 November 2012 - 09:30 by Matthew Vella

S&D leader Hannes Swoboda confirmed a split inside the socialists grouping.

The group of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament have voted to reject Tonio Borg for the post of European Commissioner, but have agreed to give their members a free vote tomorrow in Strasbourg.

The news comes in the wake of a decision by the socialists' political grouping, in which 62 MEPs voted in favour of a statement to reject Borg, against 24.

The socialists, which command 189 seats, are key to the non-binding vote that must approve or reject Borg in a secret ballot tomorrow.

Hannes Swoboda, President of the S&D Group, commented: "The S&D Group acknowledges Mr Borg's performance during his hearing and took note of his declaration that his personal views would not interfere with his duties as Commissioner, if appointed. But gender equality and the rights of women and homosexuals are still under fire from a part of Europe's right wing and the S&D Group wants to see the position filled by someone with a track record on respecting and furthering these rights."

Ahead of today's vote in the European Parliament plenary session, he continued: "Should Mr Borg be confirmed by a majority of the European Parliament, we will co-operate with him in his area of competence. He will then have the duty and opportunity to convince the many citizens who have voiced doubts about his position and his commitment to fundamental rights."

Although greens, liberals and left-wingers in the EP have declared they will reject Borg, it is yet to be seen whether the split inside the socialists' grouping will be enough to reject Borg's appointment - the European People's Party (271) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (52) as well as the right-wing European of Freedom and Democracy (34) are expected to overwhelmingly support Borg.

Borg will need a simple majority of the EP's 754 members.

Also today, Greens-EFA co-president Rebecca Harms said that her political group would be rejecting Borg, even though co-president Dani Cohn Bendit was last week revealed that he would support Borg, fearing that more important political issues would be sidelined over Borg's conservative views on gay rights and abortion, amongst other issues.

"We don't think he will really fight for European values or for the European treaties. This scepticism, due to what Mr Borg said about homosexuals, is justified. He is against abortion, against contraception, and I think that Malta does not need such a Catholic commissioner," Harms said.

Arnold Cassola, AD spokesperson on EU and International Affairs, said he had written to the Green group in the European Parliament stating that Alternattiva Demokratika is against Tonio Borg's nomination. "AD is not against Borg's nomination because he is a Catholic but because he has tried to impose his personal views on everybody, with regards to gay rights and divorce, and because he was in favour of Berlusconi's pushback policy of migrants as well as sending Eritrean refugees back home to be tortured as evidenced by Amnesty International and UNHCR..... which goes against the basic teaching of the Catholic church. The personal faith of every person, including Commissioners, should be always respected, whatever it is," Cassola said.

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