Updated - Adds comments by Edward Scicluna - The Socialist group in the European Parliament has voted strongly to reject the nomination of Tonio Borg to serve as European Commissioner.
The 62-24 vote was taken after a meeting which started at 7 p.m.
Group leader Hannes Swoboda said in a tweet: "Following the S & D Group vote, 2/3 majority decision is to reject Tonio Borg as Health and Consumer Commissioner"
The decision is a huge blow for Dr Borg ahead of the secret vote due to be taken tomorrow in a plenary session of the European Parliament. He needs the backing of a simple majority of the 754 MEPs to be approved.
The socialist group's decision was taken despite backing for Dr Borg by the Malta Labour Party, which forms part of the group and has four MEPs.
Only the PPE group (271 MEPs), of which the PN forms part, the conservatives (52) and the European Party of Freedom and Democracy (34) have said they will vote for him. The Greens and Liberals have said they will vote against, although some have broken ranks and said they will back Dr Borg. No group has a majority within the European Parliament and the outcome of the vote is uncertain since many MEPs do not attend plenary sessions, and some opt to vote according to their own rather than group preferences.
This morning Mr Swoboda had said he was satisfied with the letter sent by Dr Borg in which he provided the assurances which several MEPs had sought in the wake of last week’s hearing.
"I think that with the letter of assurances given by Dr Borg I will be able to vote for him. However we will make sure that he is under constant observance," he said.
The socialist group, however, had been divided, with the Spanish, Italian and Scandinavian delegations voicing opposition to the Maltese nominee for his personal views, despite having been praised for his competence for the responsibilities he was assigned.
EDWARD SCICLUNA REACTION
Labour MEP Edward Scicluna, who was present for the socialist group meeting said afterwards on facebook:
"An hour long humiliating experience I, as a Maltese, could have done without in group meeting today. Irreparable damage to our reputation".
Separately, he also said: "Condescendingly Malta pigeon-holed as the most backward and intolerant in Europe. This as a positive reason why EP should approve Borg."
Tomorrow's vote will be streamed live on timesofmalta.com