EU lawmakers challenge Maltese Catholic nominee for top health job

By Reuters Staff
November 14, 2012

(The Maltese Capital Valletta, 11 April 2007/Rolf Krahl)

European lawmakers are challenging Malta’s nominee for the EU’s top health job because of his contempt for homosexuals and opposition to abortion, after his predecessor quit over an investigation linking him to bribery.

European Greens, Liberals and Socialists, who have spoken out against Tonio Borg, Malta’s foreign minister and a devout Catholic, make up half of the parliament. The Conservatives, who are more likely to back him, have just under half of the legislature, with independents making up the rest.

“The question is really to what extent he is willing to openly and publicly disassociate himself from his previous statements,” said Franziska Brantner, a Green member of the European Parliament.

The controversy threatens to further embarrass the European Commission after Malta’s previous commissioner John Dalli resigned last month in a tobacco lobbying scandal. It also casts doubt on selection procedures at the EU executive which places officials in unelected posts that shape regulation across Europe at a time when many Europeans question the Commission’s democratic legitimacy.

Borg’s personal views matter because the EU health commissioner oversees sensitive policy on issues such as access to healthcare, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and stem cell research, lawmakers and rights groups say.

Read the full story by Robin Emmott and Claire Davenport here.
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