The European Parliament is taking the resignation of John Dalli “very seriously” and wants to look deeply into the issue, the Parliament’s President Martin Schultz said last night.
“On behalf of my colleagues in the Conference of Presidents, I have asked European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to give us more details and further information about the reasons for the resignation of Mr Dalli and analyses of the accusations made by OLAF,” he told The Times.
The Conference of Presidents is the highest institution of the EP and includes the Presidents of all the Parliamentary Groups represented in the Brussels chamber. OLAF is the EU’s anti-fraud agency.
Mr Dalli resigned as European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy after the agency concluded he knew of an attempt by a Maltese businessman, using his contact with Mr Dalli, to gain financial benefit from a Swedish tobacco producer. This was in exchange for influence over a legislative proposal on a smokeless tobacco product called snus.
Both Mr Dalli and Mr Zammit have denied these allegations.
European Parliament sources said several MEPs were putting pressure on the Commission to reveal the details of OLAF’s report, even though this was not normal procedure.
The report contains the precise allegations against Mr Dalli and the evidence that OLAF gathered to prove its case.
The Parliament itself has been tainted in the past by MEPs being found guilty of trying to influence EU laws in exchange for cash offered through lobbyists. Some MEPs were forced to resign over such issues.
Asked whether he agreed with the suggestion made by the President of the Socialist
Group, Hannes Swoboda, that Malta should wait for the next general election before replacing Mr Dalli, Mr Schultz, said he was not sure if this could be done.
“I have to check whether this is legally admissible,” he said. “Until 2014 every country should have its own Commissioner and it is only up to Malta to decide.”
Commissioners are nominated by the governments of member states. Than it is up to the President of the Commission to decide what portfolio they are assigned.
Although Mr Dalli is the first European Commissioner to resign over allegations of impropriety, many other Commissioners have resigned before either for personal reasons or to take up a national political career. Every time, their replace-ment was made swiftly by the government of the country involved.
Yesterday, Dr Gonzi indicated that Malta would proceed with its nomination “very soon” although not before the end of the sum-mit today.
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