European Commissioner John Dalli issued a “clarification” on his comments about Libya after Commission president José Manuel Barroso intervened personally, it emerged yesterday.

Asked about the matter during the Commission’s midday briefing in Brussels, Commission spokesman Pia Ahrenkilde Hanson said Mr Barroso contacted Mr Dalli over the weekend to discuss the matter.

On Sunday, Mr Dalli issued a statement to “clarify” comments he made about Libya during a business breakfast on Friday when he said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi “should make his own decisions”, which seemed to contradict the stand adopted by the Commission.

Without delving into details of the phone conversation, the spokesman said Mr Dalli had issued a “clarification” and the matter should be put to rest. “What I can say is Mr Dalli issued a clarification on his remarks, which is very useful to us,” she said.

Trying to play down the matter, she said Mr Dalli’s comments were his “personal” views as Mr Barroso had already made the official stand of the EU Executive clear.

In his statement on Sunday, Mr Dalli said he regretted that some of his comments conveyed the “false impression” that he did not support the stand on Libya adopted by his boss who made it clear Col Gaddafi’s time was up.

During the business breakfast, Mr Dalli also questioned the authenticity of some of the media coverage and described as “pitiful” the fact that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was relying on media reports to get information about Libya.

Euractiv, a leading EU news portal based in Brussels, reported that Mr Dalli “was forced to make an apology”. It said his comments about Col Gaddafi “came as an embarrassment for the European Commission ahead of a meeting of EU leaders this week (Friday) that will consider backing the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya in an attempt to prevent a full-blown civil war in the North African country”.

New Europe – a weekly newspaper published in Brussels and targeted for EU officials – said “Dalli repented his pro-Gaddafi remarks” and added the Maltese commissioner used to have business ties with Libya

The spokesman was also asked whether Mr Barroso shared Mr Dalli’s recent description of his job as “a five-year prison sentence, which will soon be over”.

Ms Ahrenkilde Hensen said she had never heard the comment and had nothing to add.

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

Support Us