Tonio Borg, Malta's controversial nomination for the post of European Union Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, now looks almost certain to be accepted.
As the Times of Malta reports, Dr Borg impressed many members of the European parliament when he was questioned by three committees. It is thought that his performances before the committees have ensured that he will have a majority of the votes in next week's plenary session, which will make the decision.
However, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the third largest group in the European Parliament, is reported by the Malta Independent to have decided to oppose Borg's nomination.
The nomination of Dr Borg, the current Deputy Prime Minister of Malta, is highly controversial. He has been criticised as holding views that are not compatible with the European Union's commitment to human rights. As Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Borg would be making decisions on such matters as access to healthcare, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and stem cell research. His critics claim that his views on such matters are simply incompatible with the values of the European Union.
The decision by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe followed an open letter from the European Humanist Federation to Mr Barroso, the President of the European Commission, expressing grave concerns about Borg's nomination. The letter states:
The European Union has always been deeply committed to the promotion of human rights, in particular the rights of minorities, and also common European principles such as equality between men and women and non-discrimination.
There are serious doubts as to whether Mr Tonio Borg shares this commitment. As Minister of Justice in Malta, he repeatedly and vigorously opposed women’s sexual and reproductive rights and even campaigned in 2004 to constitutionalize the abortion ban in his home country. In 2011, he also strongly opposed the legalisation of divorce in Malta. In addition, he has openly expressed contempt for the LGBT community and opposed the recognition of the rights of homosexual co-habiting couples in the Maltese Parliament in 2009. Finally, as Home Affairs Minister, he clearly failed to protect the rights of illegal migrants. Despite several calls from human rights organisations, he oversaw in 2001 the deportation of more than 200 Eritreans back to Eritrea where several of them were eventually tortured and killed.
Dr Borg's nomination has even been criticised by Catholic organisations. Catholics for Choice, for example, states in a factsheet:
Borg’s nomination raises concerns for a number of reasons, especially because of his trenchant antichoice positions and his opposition to equal rights for gay people and fair treatment for immigrants. His positions on these issues place him well outside the mainstream.
Ironically, the nomination of Dr Borg, a committed nationalist, strongly opposed to human rights legislation, depends of the whether or not he is able to elicit the support of the Socialist group, the second largest group in the European Parliament. According to the Times of Malta, his performances before the European Parliamentary committees have ensured he has their support, which would make his appointment next week a mere formality.