Dr. Tonio Borg, currently Malta’s Foreign Minister, is his country’s nominee for the European Commission’s Health and Consumer Policy portfolio, a post recently vacated by John Dalli. With academic qualifications in administrative and human rights law, and decades of experience in his country’s Justice and Home Affairs Ministries, Dr. Borg is an ideal nominee. Dr. Borg is also a catholic Christian and, because of this, a coordinated campaign opposing his nomination is in full force.
On 13 November, a three hours hearing of the Commissioner-designate will take place at the European Parliament (which has a quasi veto on the confirmations of new Commissioners). Under normal circumstances, there would be no reason for Parliament to doubt the nominee’s suitability for the post.
But for weeks, a coalition of special interest groups and NGOs has been mounting an aggressive negative campaign against Dr. Borg.
In articles, blog-posts and tweets, his critics— first and foremost the European Humanist Federation, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)—have focused their attacks on Dr. Borg’s Christian faith and his personal views on issues like abortion, same-sex ‘marriage’ and divorce.
None of these fall under EU competence or have anything to do with the portfolio Dr. Borg would inherit if confirmed. And yet, his opponents, disrespectful of the principle of subsidiarity enshrined in the EU treaties, claim that these are not ‘European values’. They even go as far as to assert that he has ‘extremist values’.
In other words, according to these vocal lobby groups, simply holding Christian beliefs on social issues is a sign of ‘extremism’.
This would have certainly surprised the ‘founding fathers’ of European integration, many of whom were devout Christians who based the European project on Christian principles such as subsidiarity, as well as human dignity and solidarity.
The vast majority of European citizens today are Christians. To portray Christianity as ‘extremism’ is hateful and intolerant propaganda. But much of it is disseminated by various NGOs who themselves hold the rather extreme views of a minority of radical secularists, abortion and LGBT advocates. But the message of their sabre-rattling in the lead-up to the hearing is clear: European values are not Christian values—and Christian values are incompatible with European values.
There is a fundamental arrogance in the assertion made by Dr. Borg’s opponents that only views closely aligned with their own can be considered ‘truly European’—that their secularist, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and anti-Christian agenda is ‘more European’ than mainstream views. But this campaign is not about having a public debate on European values, it is about denying a qualified person the right to hold a high-ranking office in the EU because he is a Christian.
The simple fact is that these groups are trying to use the veil of ‘European values’ to advance their own radical agenda. They seem to have forgotten the Preamble of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which speaks of “respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe.” It also explicitly recognises Europe’s “spiritual and moral heritage”, of which Dr. Borg is a dignified exponent.
Amid all the accusations, Dr. Borg’s critics continue to ignore Annex XVII of Parliament’s own Rules of Procedure, which stipulates that European commissioners are to be designated solely on the basis of their competence and knowledge of their prospective portfolio. Dr. Borg’s personal beliefs thus should not and cannot be used to evaluate his suitability for the post.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s hearing, the MEPs on the interviewing committees ought to consider very carefully whether they will be guided by these Rules of Procedure and the broader, democratic ideals of the EU—including religious liberty, as well as freedom of thought and expression—or whether they will simply allow themselves to be cowed by radical special interests and well-funded lobby groups, which hold views that are not representative of the majority of Europeans.
Furthermore, it should be a matter of great public concern that some of the NGOs seeking to classify Dr. Borg’s Christian values as “un-European” are funded by the European Commission itself—such as ILGA Europe, which receives 70% of its annual budget from the EU.
Every year the European Parliament presents its Sakharov Prize to a defender of freedom of thought in the world. Surely, it must be consistent and defend such freedom in its own house as well. Otherwise, the very credibility of the European Parliament is at stake.
Dr. Borg’s values are absolutely consistent with the European values embodied in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. All the vicious, intolerant and hateful attacks made against him should be seen for what they are—a smokescreen behind which radical special interest groups are trying to advance their own agenda.