Doubts over Tonio Borg’s record on women’s and LGBT rights

Members of the European Parliament are expressing doubts over the nomination of Tonio Borg to replace John Dalli at the European Commission. Centrist and progressive MEPs question his views on women’s rights and LGBT rights.

Tonio Borg (Credit Wikimedia/H Pinki)Tonio Borg has expressed ultraconservative views on LGBT rights, as well as divorce and abortion. MEPs consider these views as potentially problematic when holding the public health portfolio at the European Commission.

Mr Borg has previously declared that Maltese law should “only protect those who deserve protection”, inferring that homosexual and unmarried couples did not. In the same debate, he appeared to deride the idea that same-sex couples could receive minimum protection under the law.

He has also expressed ultraconservative views on divorce, and voted against legalising it in 2011 despite a referendum which supported the change. Tonio Borg also attempted to criminalise abortion under the Maltese constitution, a rare proposal in Malta.

The LGBT Intergroup raised these questions in a briefing to MEPs, published by Malta Today.

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup (ALDE), commented: “Like all citizens, Tonio Borg is fully entitled to his own views and we would not expect him to abandon them. Commissioners are politicians, so their views are highly relevant to their future portfolio.”

“This is why during the hearing, we will ask Mr Borg about his agenda for public health. Parliament has repeatedly expressed itself on policies including LGBT rights and sexual and reproductive health rights; we want a Commissioner who will work with Parliament to deliver those policies.”

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup (S&D), added: “I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Mr Borg yesterday, and pointed out the views he previously expressed would be incompatible with holding a high EU office. The European Commission makes laws and policies for 500 million Europeans with diverse lives, opinions and values.”

“Mr Borg needs to set the record straight and reassure the European Parliament that his values won’t obstruct neutral policy-making.”

Dennis de Jong MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup (GUE/NGL), concluded: “Like colleagues, I shall certainly ask Mr Borg a number of highly critical questions on women’s and LGBT rights. I think the Commission should stand for the protection of universal fundamental rights.”

Tonio Borg will be asked questions in a formal hearing at the European Parliament on 13 November. The event will be webstreamed live.

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Photo: Wikimedia / H Pinki