Updated with reactions to Dr Borg's appointment -

Tonio Borg said this afternoon that he would work with all political sectors after the European Parliament voted to back his nomination to the European Commission.

MEPs early this afternoon approved the nomination with 386 votes in favour, 281 against and 28 abstentions.

The secret vote was taken in a plenary meeting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Dr Borg watched proceedings from his sitting room at home in Lija.

Dr Borg's appointment now has to be formally confirmed by the European Council.

Dr Borg will then assume his post immediately and will resign from the Maltese Parliament, meaning that a casual election or a co-option will have to be held to fill his seat.

The prime minister will also need to appoint a new foreign minister.

Today's vote had been uncertain with the socialist group joining the greens and the liberals in opposing the nomination yesterday.

The PPE group voted solidly for Dr Borg along with the conservatives and other centre right groups. It appeared that some MEPs from the dissenting groups also voted for Dr Borg.

Dr Borg in initial comments said his feeling was like somebody who had just passed an exam. He thanked all those who backed him, including the six Maltese MEPs as well as his family and colleagues for their support and said he would work with everyone.

He said his first priority would be to pass the new Tobacco Directive.

Dr Borg said he remained true to his personal beliefs, including his opposition to abortion but would always respect the EU Charter.

"Despite the attacks made against me and against Malta, the Europeans still trust our country," he told timesofmalta.com


European Commission President Jose' Manuel Barroso, who had backed Dr Borg, praised the outcome of the vote.

"I am pleased with the positive opinion of the European Parliament on the appointment of Dr Tonio Borg as next Commission for Health and Consumer Policy," Barroso said in a tweet.


MEP Simon Busuttil said this was a victory of common sense over prejudice and intolerance.

The EPP, of which the PN is a member said:

"This is a victory of reason over intolerance and ideological partisanship."

ILGA Europe, one of the groups which opposed Dr Borg said it hoped he would honour commitments made before his election.


Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi welcomed the vote in favour of Dr Borg, whom he praised for his competence, seriousness and integrity. He was confident, he said, that Dr Borg would make the country proud.


The Labour Party also congratulated Dr Borg.

It noted that as Joseph Muscat had said, the nomination process had been problematic. It said that despite its reservations over how the nomination was made and over past declarations by Dr Borg, it had still backed him.

It said the Labour MEPs had played a crucial role for Dr Borg to win the support of a minority within the socialist group.

The PL said it had adopted this position in the national interest.

Labour MEP Edward Scicluna was short and sweet, saying on facebook - "Chapter closed. Amen."


Joseph Daul, Chairman of the EPP Group said:

"We welcome the positive result of today's vote on the nomination of Tonio Borg as the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. We put our trust in his commitment to be at the service of European citizens", said Joseph Daul MEP, Chairman of the EPP Group.

"His professional record, his convincing presentation during the European Parliament's hearing and his personal engagement qualify him to take up such an important post. I am happy that common sense has prevailed over the double standards of those who used ideological narrow-mindedness to attack the candidate", he added.

"This is a victory of reason over intolerance and ideological partisanship. Tonio Borg's professional competences and his commitment to European values is decisive for us. Tonio Borg should now get to work as soon as possible", said Richard Seeber MEP, EPP Group Co-Coordinator in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament.

"Today's vote is a victory for the freedom of opinion and a defeat for all those who want to dictate what they think is moral correctness", said Peter Liese MEP, who is also an EPP Group Co-Coordinator in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.

The EPP Group believes that in these difficult times, it is crucial to have strong European Institutions. By approving Tonio Borg as the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, the European Parliament, with the leading role of the EPP Group, has proved today that it lives up to this standard."


The Nationalist party congratulated Dr Borg who, it said, had done the country proud with his competence, integrity and principles.

It said that Dr Borg had faced intense pressure but had held on to his principles.


MEP Chris Davies (LibDem, UK), on behalf of ALDE (liberals), which opposed Dr Borg said:

"Having gained a majority of support in the House Dr Borg must now be careful not to allow his views to get in the way of rational judgment on sensitive issues of health and reproductive rights.

"We recognise that Dr Borg gave a professional performance at his hearing and we have no reason to doubt that he is competent and able. However, his views on homosexuality, divorce, abortion, and the scientific use of tissues and cells have been well reported and, while he stated his opposition to discrimination and support for human rights, Dr Borg made no attempt to deny his opinions on social issues of great importance. The health portfolio embraces a range of issues where impartiality is crucial. and we are not assured that the necessary impartiality would prevail. Accordingly we withheld our support for the confirmation of the Commissioner-designate with regard to the particular portfolio for which he has been nominated. If he remains in charge of public health we will be scrutinising his decisions and statements on these areas very closely."


European Dignity Watch, the NGO which had mounted a stout defence of Dr Borg's values, said democracy had prevailed.

"Despite the attempts of intolerant special interest groups to discredit Dr Borg because of his personal beliefs on social issues such as abortion and marriage, Dr Borg proved to be a suitable candidate for the position. MEPs were convinced not only by his professional qualification but by his excellent performance at parliamentary hearings last week.

"This is a great day for Europe’s democracy. Today the fundamental principles of the European Union — subsidiarity, freedom of conscience and free speech — have been affirmed," it said.


Michael Briguglio, AD chairperson, said: "The approval of Tonio Borg means that the European Commission will have another conservative commissioner, which, in turn reflects the conservative majority in the European parliament. From day one, AD was consistent in opposing his nomination and in saying that Tonio Borg's positions on LGBT rights, his decisions on migration and his parliamentary vote against divorce despite the result of Malta's referendum were problematic. In a democracy, Tonio Borg is entitled to his beliefs, but we hope that the controversy surrounding his approval will lead to action on his part which respects basic European values and principles".

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