[WATCH] Helena Dalli performs well at the hands of MEPs

Malta’s commissioner-designate was asked about Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, Panama Papers, anti-discrimination, gender-based violence and reproductive rights

Malta's commissioner-designate Helena Dalli
Malta's commissioner-designate Helena Dalli
Helena Dalli's closing remarks at her grilling

Helena Dalli twice repeated that three men were charged with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder just 50 days after the assassination, in a standard reply to MEPs.

Malta’s commissioner-designate was asked two questions about lack of progress in the murder investigation but each time she was careful in giving her standard reply. She also insisted on describing the murder as a “femicide”.

Dalli’s replies on the Caruana Galizia murder were the only instances where she appeared uncomfortable when taking questions from MEPs during her grilling process in Brussels today.

She was more forthright when asked about former Cabinet colleague Konrad Mizzi’s actions in relation to the Panama Papers revelations, telling MEPs that she disagreed with his actions and she “would have done things totally different”.

Asked by Nationalist MEP David Casa on how she intended to ensure that there would not be “a law for gods and another for animals”, Dalli insisted that throughout her political life she always worked for good governance, the rule of law, and democracy.

“I supported a law [in Malta] whereby politicians will remain accountable for their deeds until death… You know my credentials very well,” she answered.

In a three-hour hearing, Dalli appeared very confident when addressing questions on the equality portfolio, earning herself several applauses along the way.

Her unwavering commitment to equality was evident and appeared to have gone down well with MEPs. Dalli’s experience on the subject matter also shone through.

Dalli promised to work on a commission proposal for pay transparency in the first 100 days, insisting that transparency was the first step to start addressing the gender pay gap.

She committed herself to push for implementation of the Work-Life Balance Directive approved earlier this year, adding it was an important first step.

Dalli earned plaudits for her commitment to push for the EU’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention on gender-based violence as a bloc.

Some member states have blocked the convention’s ratification.

“Accession of the EU to the Istanbul Convention is a priority for me… the convention combines areas of EU and national competence but when we see statistics showing us that many women across the bloc have suffered some form of violence, I ask myself, how can we not go ahead and ratify it,” Dalli told MEPs, describing the convention as the “gold standard”.

When asked about the anti-discrimination directive that remains blocked in council, Dalli said her maxim was “don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you”.

Helena Dalli said she wanted the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention
Helena Dalli said she wanted the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention

“This is why I believe that we have to unblock the anti-discrimination directive, and I will work with you to unblock this,” she said.

Dalli earned plaudits when she put down a far-right MEP, who expressed concern on people who decided to change their legal gender at a whim.

“Changing gender is not a walk in the park… everyone deserves to be treated equally,” Dalli responded in a passionate tone. Her remarks were welcomed by loud applause.

Fielding a question on female genital mutilation, Dalli described this as “a scourge” and the result of patriarchy. She said more had to be done to address the issue but urged everyone to be vigilant in their respective communities.

On abortion, Dalli skilfully avoided a mine field. While acknowledging that abortion was a national competence and that she will respect EU treaties on the matter, she pledged to do everything possible to protect sexual and reproductive rights “without exception”.

She avoided detail when asked how she was planning to improve access to reproductive rights but used catch phrases like “women’s rights are human rights” and “I am a committed feminist”.

Malta is the only EU country to have a complete ban on abortion.

Dalli was clear and unequivocal when asked about the rights of persons with a disability, insisting that she would do everything in her power to ensure the UN convention is implemented and mainstreamed.

25 MEPs put questions ranging from equality to anti-discrimination
25 MEPs put questions ranging from equality to anti-discrimination

Dalli ended her grilling by referring to children and how in their innocence they did not discriminate between one another.

“Whenever I visited a nursery, kindergarten or school, I observe how children interact without differentiation. Children have no notion of difference, they don’t discriminate or hate… We need to work so society unlearns its discriminatory ways and stereotyping,” she said.

Dalli reiterated that society is stronger when all are “valued and included”, insisting there is “enough equality for everyone”.

She finished with the words of Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person based on their skin, background or religion. If people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”

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Helena Dalli on Konrad Mizzi and Panama Papers: ‘I would have done things totally different’

Helena Dalli has distanced herself from former Cabinet colleague Konrad Mizzi over his involvement in the Panama Papers scandal.

Malta’s commissioner-designate made the statement in reply to the first question put to her by MEP Frances Fitzgerald during the grilling process.

Dalli was asked whether she agreed with Mizzi’s actions at the time of the Panama Papers revelations and in the period after the publication.

“No, I do not agree and I would have done things totally different,” Dalli responded.

“Throughout my political career, I stood up for good governance, the rule of law and democracy. I also pushed for the introduction of a commissioner for standards in public life…,” Dalli added, before she was cut short by the chair because of time constraints.

Dalli’s response was welcomed by Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola, who tweeted: “Not sure why it took two years, but good that Helena Dalli refused to defend the inexcusable actions of disgraced Malta Minister Konrad Mizzi. Incredible how this Minister is still allowed to bring our country into disrepute.”

This was the first time in public that Dalli distanced herself from Mizzi.

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