Brussels, 12 November 2012 - In light of the concerns expressed by several civil society organisations over the designation of Malta’s Dr Tonio Borg for the Health and Consumer (DG SANCO) portfolio, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) would like to raise some questions regarding Dr Borg’s political record. EPHA also expresses its confidence in the European Parliament to fulfil its duty of democratic scrutiny in the hearing with Dr Borg on 13 November, and call on the European Commission to, regardless of the hearing’s outcome, release without further delay the Tobacco Product Directive from its current deadlock.

Dr Borg’s political record on abortion, homosexuality, and immigration raises questions on the compatibility of his personal beliefs and values, and his public duties as Health Commissioner. As the top EU official dealing with issues such as equal access to health care, health promotion, disease prevention, and the reduction of health inequalities, we expect the new Health Commissioner to act in the interest of all people living in Europe, including groups which he is known to have strong views on, including single mothers, homosexuals, minority groups, and migrants.

With these considerations in mind, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) should raise the right questions during the European Parliament’s hearing with Mr Borg to make sure that his views will not undermine the Commission’s mission of working to guarantee the well-being of all, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, pregnancy condition, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, marital status, disability or any other cultural factor. This safeguard embodies one of the key principles enshrined in the EU treaty.

In the meantime, the complex political process leading to the appointment of a Health Commissioner is further delaying the release of the overdue Tobacco Products Directive. We would like to repeat our call on the European Commission and President Barroso to release the directive in the interests of public health and transparency, irrespective of the result of the hearing of Commissioner-designate Borg. EPHA calls on interim Commissioner Sefcovic to immediately release the Tobacco Products Directive into interservice consultation – something that could have be done months ago, but for undisclosed reasons has been repeatedly postponed.

The European Public Health Alliance calls for leadership from the future Commissioner to champion the health of people living in Europe. In particular, we would like to see a strong tobacco products directive, a clear mandate to support minimum unit pricing to curb harmful use of alcohol, an upgraded defence of child health, the promotion of public health in the common agriculture policy (CAP), and a pharmaceutical policy based on the public interest. To achieve these objectives, EPHA commits itself to supporting DG SANCO in promoting better Health Impact Assessments and a Health in All Policies Approach to policymaking. To adequately address the challenges facing health systems today, we hope the future Commissioner will take up the work started by the former Health Commissioner on the financial crisis and its repercussions on public health across Europe.

Our peers have expressed concerns in regards to:

  • As a member of the Maltese government, Dr Borg supported harsh anti-abortion provisions [1], fiercely opposing proposals to abolish prison terms for mothers who performed an abortion [2]. He is also in favour of restrictions on pregnant women’s ability to travel outside Malta if they are suspected of seeking abortion services overseas. [3]
  • His statements in reference to the inclusion of same-sex couples in rent reform legislation stating that his party “should only be asked to protect those who deserve protection.” During this debate he supported limiting property inheritance for same sex couples. [4]
  • His lack of compliance to implement the recommendations from former Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Álvaro Gil-Robles on migrant detention practices in Malta; [6] and his support for Italy’s policy of pushing migrants at sea back to Libya [7].


► Notes to the editors

1) The three hour hearing will take place on Tuesday from 3 p.m. and is led by the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health and Food Safety in cooperation with the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. In the following week’s plenary sitting the Parliament will vote on the appointment of the Commissioner by secret ballot.

2) Webstream of the hearing

►Contact information Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator, Tel.: +32 2 233 38 76 or E-mail:



[2] “Europe, This is Tonio.”, Opinion, Malta Today, 29th October 2012,

[3] “The pregnancy police”, Opinion, The Malta Independent, 14th February 2010,


[5] Amnesty International, “Eritrea: ‘You have no right to ask’—Government resists scrutiny on human rights,” May 18, 2004, p.30.

[6] Malta Today, “Tonio Borg Sticks to His Guns on Detention,” February 15, 2004.

[7] imes of Malta, “Watchdog surprised by Malta’s support for migrant pushbacks”, June 30, 2012.

Last modified on December 11 2012.