Barroso to testify at European court over Dalli resignation

European Commission president to testify in John Dalli resignation case heard before the European Court of Justice

Former commissioner John Dalli
Former commissioner John Dalli

European Commission president José Manuel Barroso will testify before the European Court of Justice in July, in a case filed by former Maltese commissioner John Dalli over a claim of unfair dismissal.

Dalli says he was forced to resign in October 2012, when Barroso presented him with a covering letter to an investigation by anti-fraud agency OLAF claiming he was aware of an attempt to bribe him to influence tobacco legislation.

The ECJ is hearing witnesses on 7 July to examine the circumstances in which Dalli resigned in October 2012.

When the OLAF report was finally leaked by MaltaToday, it emerged that OLAF based itself on circumstantial evidence from telephone logs of calls made between Dalli and Maltese restaurateur Silvio Zammit – who is now charged in a Maltese court of law with demanding a bribe from tobacco firm Swedish Match.

Dalli claims he was forced to resign by Barroso and is seeking to have this overturned while winning a symbolic one euro in financial compensation.

Dalli, who categorically denies all wrongdoing, has said Barroso called him in and demanded he resign within the half-hour, denying his request to give him 24 hours.

Dalli has claimed he was set up by the tobacco lobby in order to delay anti-smoking legislation.

Several other top Brussels bureaucrats will be heard by the court, including Barroso’s top aide, the head of the Commission’s legal departments and Dalli’s then assistant and spokesman.

Dalli has claimed in the Maltese law courts that Barroso suggested he should “forget” the EU’s Tobacco Directive, a piece of legislation meant to curtail smoking across Europe. Dalli said he remained steadfast in his position on cutting down tobacco use, and that Barroso told him the Commission’s legal services were having a lot of problems with the directive’s review.

Dalli also said that when the EC's former legal services head, Michel Petite, was brought in to consult the European Commision on ethics rules, “decisions began to change”. Petite had left the Commission and took a job at Clifford Chance, a lobbying firm partly owned by Phillip Morris, which is in business with Swedish Match, the Swedish producer of snus tobacco.

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