Malta's Tonio Borg appointed new Health Commissioner
(BRUSSELS) - Former Maltese foreign minister Tonio Borg was formally endorsed as the European Union's new health commissioner by EU ministers Wednesday despite some debate over his conservative Roman Catholic views.
The European Council's endorsement of Borg to take over the potentially sensitive portfolio from fellow countryman John Dalli followed a vote in his favour last week in the European parliament, over the objections of left-wing lawmakers.
Dalli was forced to resign last month after being cited in an influence-peddling probe linked to the tobacco industry, highlighting the difficulties of a brief that touches on pharmaceuticals, abortion, GMs and food.
A well-known Catholic conservative, Borg, 55, was put up by Malta to replace Dalli but there were questions as to his suitability over statements he had made in the past on abortion and gay marriage.
Last week's vote by lawmakers on his nomination became a nail-biter after the centre-left group in the European parliament said it would not support him.
But it left its members free to vote as they chose and in the end, his nomination was approved by 386 votes to 281 against.
When grilled by MEPs, Borg said that while he "would not abandon his personal views" he would respect principles on rights laid down in EU treaties.
He also promised an "ambitious" new proposal on tobacco legislation, the task that proved his predecessor's undoing, for January.
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