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The embryo in the room
Joseph Muscat claims that ‘abortion is not the issue’ with Tonio Borg’s nomination. He is wrong.
29 October 2012, 12:00am
I honestly don't understand what's got into the Labour Party. Maybe its leader actually took himself seriously when he entreated us all to 'love each other' back in 2008. Or maybe he thought it was a good political strategy to confuse his own potential supporters in the liberal camp, by suddenly transforming into a Rocco Buttiglione look-like himself.
Either way, it doesn't look good on his own progressive and liberals credentials that he would not only fail to object, but actively back the nomination of the least progressive and liberal candidate Malta could possibly dig up in its collection of stuffy mothballed conservatives (and trust me, that's really saying something).
And worse still, he defends Tonio Borg on the one issue that will no doubt raise the most eyebrows in Europe: female reproductive health.
This on its own tells us a very great deal about Malta's intrinsic political problems. It tells us that we have allowed a handful of fanatics to transform the abortion issue into such a major psychological pitfall in this country, that even the supposedly 'progressive liberals' among us dare not even speak its name for fear of instant anathema.
Muscat's entire rhetoric is clearly infected with this delusion. He claims that "All Maltese don't agree with abortion" - which is completely untrue: I am Maltese, but like millions of other Europeans I agree with abortion, and I know several other Maltese people who think likewise - "and there is a consensus between [the PN and the PL] that we do not agree with abortion."
He added: "If it was about abortion, I doubt any Maltese individual would make the grade."
Wrong on all counts I'm afraid. Muscat makes the predictable mistake of assuming that objections to Borg's nomination concern his own personal pro-life views - which, if true, would imply that the EP would likewise object to any Commissioner-designate who happens to be pro-life.
Nonsense. John Dalli was pro-life, and this didn't derail his approval by the EP. Joe Borg was also pro-life: it arguably cost him the Development Aid Portfolio, true... but he still landed himself the Fisheries and Maritime Commission instead. Why? Because neither was as obsessive as Tonio Borg about the issue. It was, merely a personal view of theirs, which they never tried to force down our collective throats.
Not so Tonio Borg. The misgivings so far expressed by Greens, Liberals and Socialists (even some EPP members, from what I am told) have nothing to do with his private opinions. They are about his public statements and (even more so) his actions... which as everyone knows speak louder than words.
And Borg's actions have shouted at the top of their voices. Many MEPS were horrified to learn that the man proposed by Gonzi to administer the European health (!) portfolio not only firmly believes that women should be imprisoned for procuring an abortion ... but even spearheaded a campaign, in 2004, to entrench that same disgusting law into the Constitution... just to make sure that his own mediaeval views on the subject become permanently fossilized, and continue to be foisted, without discussion, on generations of future (unborn) citizens.
MEPs are perfectly justified in questioning the suitability for the Commission of the architect of such an outrageously misogynistic initiative. They are right to ask questions like: how will this person objectively handle female reproductive health issues (among them, access to safe abortions - which the EU funds throughout the developing world) when he himself disapproves even of the morning after pill, and aggressively defends his country's policy of treating people who use this contraceptive device as criminals? (Literally: the MAP qualifies as abortion in Malta, and any doctor who prescribes it, or woman who takes it, could face up to three years in jail).
And of course, Borg did not limit himself merely to expressing those opinions. He also turned his office at the ministry of home affairs into the campaign headquarters of his own Constitutional amendment proposal - i.e., using the budget (taxpayers' money) and resources allocated by government to his ministry to pursue a personal political objective.
Joseph Muscat overlooked all this in his haste to appear magnanimous and conciliatory on this occasion. But there is more. He also argued (incredibly) that because all three local political parties happen to agree on maintaining the above sordid and squalid status quo, it therefore logically follows that the European parliament will likewise find no objection.
Wrong, wrong, WRONG. Seriously: I am surprised Muscat needs reminding of this detail, but... the European Commission handles policies for ALL the EU (i.e, 50 million citizens) not just for the measly half million who reside in Malta. So when MEPs assess Tonio Borg, it will on the basis of how his appointment will impact the quality of health services enjoyed by all those 50 million European citizens... and not just us.
Even so, Muscat's own party only has three representatives in the EP to begin with: hardly enough to dictate policy at European level, especially on such a controversial issue. And yes, they might even succeed in persuading the Socialist bloc to approve Borg in the end. (In fact, this is what I believe will unfortunately happen.)
But if so, it would be not only be a black day for European women in general (not to mention homosexuals, and all the other minority groups that Borg has also succeeded in antagonizing over the years). It would also spell an instant end to Muscat's claims to head a movement of 'progressives and liberals' in this country.
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