Helena Dalli gets the nod from MEPs

After a three-hour grilling at the hands of MEPs, Helena Dalli has secured the two-thirds of votes necessary to confirm her nomination as equality commissioner


After a three-hour grilling at the hands of MEPs, Helena Dalli has secured the two-thirds of votes necessary to confirm her nomination as equality commissioner.

A source close to the Socialists and Democrats in Brussels told MaltaToday that the Maltese commissioner-designate managed to secure the support of the five major groupings in the post-hearing meeting of party coordinators.

Apart from the S&D, her own political family, Dalli got the green light from the European People’s Party, Renew Europe (the liberals), the Greens and the communists.

"The EPP raised some questions but eventually voted in favour of Helena Dalli’s nomination," the source said.

The information was confirmed by a second source close to the EPP, who said Dalli was confirmed "comfortably", however her letter will include "a long list of issues that have not been sufficiently covered".

This is not expected to influence the overall positive assessment.

Dalli did not secure the support of the conservative and far-right groupings - the ECR, and Identity and Democracy.

She had a good showing earlier in Brussels as she fielded questions from MEPs from three different committees.

During the hearing, 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.

She 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.

Dalli earned further points 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.

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.

Equality Minister praises Helena Dalli’s performance

European Affairs and Equality Minister Edward Zammit Lewis applauded Helena Dalli’s ambitious equality portfolio following her grilling in the European Parliament on Wednesday.

“I think Helena Dalli performed very well and showed that she has an ambitious portfolio,” Zammit Lewis told MaltaToday.

Zammit Lewis was nominated by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to take Dalli’s place as Equality Minister. Dalli, Malta’s commissioner-designate, fielded questions on Wednesday night as an intense test before MEPs decide on her nomination to hold the equality portfolio in the next European Commission.

“The responses she gave to MEPs revealed her competence and abilities in the field of equality, which she gained from her impressive track-record back in Malta.

“From her comments on equality in the realm of disability to uniform laws on anti-discrimination, gender pay gap, and her call for tougher laws on domestic violence, Dalli has disclosed what an ambitious portfolio she aims to have,” Zammit Lewis said.

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