EP Elects Malta's Tonio Borg New Health Commissioner
Maltese Tonio Borg attends a hearing before EU Parliament Committees on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Internal Market and Consumer Protection and Agriculture in Brussels, Belgium 13 November 2012. Photo by EPA/BGNES
The European Parliament approved on Wednesday the controversial nomination of Malta's Tonio Borg for health and consumer protection commissioner.
Tonio Borg's candidature was approved by secret ballot in Strasbourg with 386 votes in favour and 281 votes against. Another 28 MEPs abstained.
Borg is to replace European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli, who resigned following an investigation for involvement in fraud.
Over the past few weeks Malta's foreign minister was subjected to an extensive examination by the Parliament to check out his suitability for the post as his conservative views on same-sex rights, abortion, and divorce hit the wrong note inside Brussels.
Borg overcame general opposition from gay rights groups, liberals, green MEPs, and left-wing MEPs who at the last minute appeared bolstered by an announcement from the EP's socialists' group that it was calling for a rejection of Borg as commissioner.
"I thank everyone who supported my nomination. It was a difficult decision but it would be unfair to say otherwise," Borg told MaltaToday shortly after his official approval by MEPs.
"This vote shows that Malta can have certain opinions but it doesn't mean that they do not accept our opinions. It shows the maturity of MEPs who didn't base their vote on hearsay and misconceptions but accepted Malta as a modern country with its beliefs."
The chairman of the European People's Party, Joseph Daul, said Borg's approval was a victory for common sense.
"His professional record, his convincing presentation during the European Parliament's hearing and his personal engagement qualify him to take up such an important post. I am happy that common sense has prevailed over the double standards of those who used ideological narrow-mindedness to attack the candidate."
Borg was born on 12 May, 1957. He studied at St Aloysius College and later at the University of Malta from where he graduated as a lawyer in 1979. He is a constitutional lawyer and a human rights specialist.
He was first elected to Parliament in 1992 and continued to be elected ever since. In 1995 he was appointed Minister of the Interior. After the 198 election, Borg was appointed Minister of the Interior and the Environment. After the 2003 election he served as Minister of Justice and Home Affairs and in 2008 was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. From 2004 onwards he also served as Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Representatives.
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