Foreign affairs minister and PN deputy leader Tonio Borg.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has officially informed European Commission President Jose' Manoel Barroso and the Leader of the Opposition of the government's decision to nomintae foreign affairs minister Tonio Borg to the post of EU Commissioner, replacing John Dalli who resigned this week in the wake of an Olaf investigation.
In an interview he held on Sunday morning on TVM, Borg said he will be leaving Malta tonight and will hold talks with the President of the Commission Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday morning in Brussels.
Borg hinted that he will probably keep Dalli's portfolio. He said that he was given a clear indication that he will be appointed as health and customer policy commissioner although he noted that this remains the prerogative of Barroso.
The outgoing deputy Prime Minister added that he will be resigning as Nationalist Party deputy leader "immediately," meaning that his post will be up for grabs and potential leadership contenders such as Simon Busuttil, Mario de Marco and Chris Said will be eying the vacant deputy leader post.
Speaking on his conservative views, Borg said: "One must be careful before labelling somebody and you cannot divest me of my values."
Borg went on to remind viewers of the laws introduced under his helm as home affairs minister in which all references to 'illegitimate children' were removed and inheritance rights were extended to everyone.
On the John Dalli investigations, Borg augured that all persons involved "justify their position."
He added that once he is appointed commissioner "we must look forward and work in the best interests of Europe."
On Saturday, Borg appeared on told Net TV and said that he will shortly resign as deputy leader of the PN but will stay on as MP and Minister until the European Union's confirmation process is concluded.
The PN in a statement thanked Tonio Borg for his service as deputy leader and praised him for his integrity and wisdom.
Once approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, Tonio Borg will serve for the rest of John Dalli's term, up to 2014.
This week, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi hinted at a swift replacement of John Dalli, who resigned his post following an investigation by the EU's anti-fraud office, OLAF.
The appointment of Tonio Borg should not be met by strong opposition in Malta, however it could be the catalyst for a number of changes in both government and the Nationalist Party.
If Borg is confirmed Commissioner before Parliament is dissolved, his parliamentary seat must be filled in either by holding a casual election or the Nationalist Party could choose to co-opt somebody into parliament directly.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi will also have to appoint a new foreign affairs minister and a new leader of the House, unless he chooses to take up the posts himself as he did with the home affairs portfolio following Carm Mifsud Bonnici's resignation.
With Nationalist MP Franco Debono threatening to vote against the budget, it could well mean that Parliament is dissolved before the end of November, if Debono follows through with his threat.
The budget is expected to be presented by mid-November and the first vote would be taken a few days later. If the government loses the budget vote, Gonzi will have no option but to dissolve Parliament.
However, the PN will certainly need to fill in the vacant seat of deputy leader which could pave the way for leadership hopefuls such as Simon Busuttil, Mario de Marco and Chris Said.
The length of time the European Parliament and Commission will need to approve Borg's nomination is not known yet.
The foreign affairs minister was accused by the Opposition of having openly homophobic views which he expressed in Parliament when he derided the proposal to legislate for gay co-habiting couples. Borg, a staunch Catholic, is also renowned for his strong anti-divorce and anti-abortion stance.
In 2004, Barroso famously came under immense pressure to dump Italy's Rocco Buttiglione, a Catholic centre-right politician who had controversial views on gays and women.
Buttilgione withdrew his nomination after his proposed appointment as EU Commissioner for justice and security was ejected by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee.