Dalli loses unfair dismissal appeal in EU court

Former commissioner’s unfair dismissal claim confirmed by European Court of Justice to have been inadmissible

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) will appear at the European Court of Justice today.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) will appear at the European Court of Justice today.

The European Court of Justice confirmed the inadmissibility an unfair dismissal claim by former Commissioner John Dalli in relation to his resignation allegedly requested by ex-President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.

The unfair dismissal claim stemmed from the 16 October, 2012 meeting between Barroso, and Dalli, the Maltese Commissioner responsible for the health and consumer protection portfolio.

The Commission had received an OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) report concluding that Dalli had participated in several unofficial and confidential meetings with representatives of the tobacco industry, which were conducted without the knowledge or involvement of the competent Commission services.

The investigation, later revealed to have relied on circumstantial evidence, was related to an alleged €60 million bribe solicited by a canvasser of John Dalli from Swedish firm Swedish Match, in return to lift an EU ban on the retail of snus tobacco.

According to OLAF, the image and reputation of the Commission had been put at risk, and Dalli’s behaviour was seen as a breach of his duty to behave in keeping with the dignity and the duties of his office.

But Dalli claimed that Barroso terminated his term of office or, at the very least, required his resignation by relying on the provision of the Treaty on European Union, which provides that ‘a member of the Commission shall resign if the President so requests’.

The Commission disputed those allegations and contended that Dalli resigned voluntarily.

In May 2015, the General Court rejected Dalli’s action seeking the annulment of that alleged oral decision as inadmissible. It held that Dalli had voluntarily resigned, no formal request for his resignation having been made by President Barroso.

Dalli appealed before the Court of Justice, which today found that the General Court did not commit an error in concluding that no formal request for the appellant’s resignation had been made by Barroso.

According to the General Court’s findings, Barroso merely put two options to Mr Dalli, namely, voluntary resignation or resignation formally requested by the President of the Commission.

Like the General Court, the Court considered that the mere mention made by Barroso of the possibility of using a power entrusted to him as President of the Commission cannot be equated with the actual use of that power. The General Court concluded from its factual findings that Dalli had voluntarily resigned a purely factual assessment that may not be reviewed by the Court of Justice in an appeal.

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