Helena Dalli won the two-thirds majority needed to be approved by MEPs as European Commissioner for Equality, sources said on Wednesday.

In a tweet shortly after her three-hour grilling, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat referred to Dr Dalli as "Commissioner".

“Malta is proud to have you as the first EU Commissioner for equality,” he tweeted.

His congratulations were echoed by several other Labour politicians, who lined up to congratulate Dr Dalli on her performance before MEPs. 

Sources within the European Parliament also told Times of Malta that Dr Dalli had the approval of at least two-thirds of the MEP committee group coordinators who led her hearing. 

The only major opposition to Dr Dalli appears to have come from members of the European Conservatives and Reformists and the Identity and Democracy groups.

Dr Dalli's staff will now receive a letter in the coming hours confirming her approval and highlighting issues which MEPs felt she could have tackled in further depth during her hearing. 

The letter will be sent to the conference of presidents and all MEPs will then vote on the whole college of commissioners presented by incoming Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen during a plenary session in Strasbourg later this month. 

Panama Papers 

Dr Dalli’s hearing began with a political bang, with Malta’s former equality minister immediately telling MEPs that she would have handled the Panama Papers affairs “totally differently”. 

During her grilling, Dr Dalli was asked if she agreed with a fellow Cabinet minister who was implicated in the offshore leak which rocked the world back in 2016.

She told MEPs she would have done things “totally differently”.

Irish MEP Frances Fitzgerald asked her: “Do you agree with that minister (Konrad Mizzi)’s actions at the time? What lessons have you learned and how would  you put them into practice as commissioner?”

In response, the commissioner-designate said: “No, I do not agree. I would have done things totally differently."

The massive data leak, known as the Panama Papers, revealed that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri had both set up secret offshore holdings shortly after taking up office. The revelations have haunted the Labour administration ever since. 

Citing her good governance credentials, Dr Dalli said she had dedicated her political life to upholding democracy, rule of law, and transparency.

During the grilling, which mainly focused on her designated equality portfolio, Dr Dalli also faced questions about the state of rule of law in Malta. 

Nationalist MEP David Casa pointed out how she had been a member of a Cabinet of politicians planning to receive €5,000 daily - a reference to corruption allegations which still dog Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri today.

Dr Dalli responding to the question about the Panama Papers.

What would she do to ensure "that there is no law for the gods and law for the animals”? He asked. 

Dr Dalli again listed her credentials on good governance, including being part of the push for the removal of time restrictions on the prosecution of politicians allegedly involved in corruption, and the setting up of a Commission for Standards in Public Life. 

Mr Casa however was not overly impressed by her response, and shortly afterward tweeted that although her answer was “scripted” it left much to be desired. 

The very first question that Dr Dalli faced in Brussels was about the car bomb assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.  

Describing the murder as a “femicide”, Dr Dalli said that while the investigations were ongoing, three men had been arrested and later indicted for having carried out the assassination.

MEP Eliza Vozemberg also began her question by expressing dismay that the murder case had not yet been solved, prompting a repeat performance by Dr Dalli, who once again referred to the murder as a case of femicide.  

The third reference to the assassination of Ms Caruana Galizia came towards the end of the grilling as was framed as a compliment to Dr Dalli. 

“After the painful realisation of the death of Ms Caruana Galizia it is good to see another strong Maltese woman,” the commissioner-designate was told. 

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us