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EU:s högsta domstol prövar tvist om tidigare kommissionär Dalli

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_76115973_dallinewafpThe head of the European Commission has told the EU’s top court that the entire Commission’s reputation was at stake when a Maltese member of his team was found to have acted improperly.

José Manuel Barroso försvarade sin behandling av ex-hälsokommissionären John Dalli, som lämnade sitt jobb 2012.

Dalli hade anklagats för otillbörliga kopplingar till tobakslobbyister.

Barroso sa till EU-domstolen att han inte hade något annat val än att säga åt Dalli att gå.

Den tidigare hälsokommissionären berättade för domarna i Luxemburg att hans avgång innebar en uppsägning och att han hade blivit orättvist behandlad av Barroso.

“It was not a meeting, it was an ambush,” Dalli said, referring to a key meeting with Barroso on 16 October 2012. That was when Barroso read out allegations against him contained in a secret report by EU anti-fraud agency OLAF.

“The facts were manipulated. I did nothing wrong,” Dalli told the court, alleging that the presumption of innocence had been violated and that he had been denied sufficient time to argue his case.

Annons

Dalli kräver ersättning from the Commission for loss of earnings. In his plea to the court he also wants an annulment of Mr Barroso’s request for his resignation and a symbolic award of one euro (£0.80; $1.4) in damages for the reputational harm he says he has suffered.

Tobakslänkar

Kommissionens ordförande Jose Manuel Barroso vid EG-domstolen den 7 juli 14Barroso (mitten) säger att det fanns ett politiskt krav för Dalli att avgå

Enligt Olaf, a Maltese businessman friend of Mr Dalli had sought a “considerable” payment from a Swedish producer of oral tobacco, called snus. Under the proposal Mr Dalli would then lift an EU ban on the product. Currently only Sweden has an exemption from the ban.

Olaf said it had “unambiguous and converging circumstantial pieces of evidence” that Dalli knew of the alleged bribery attempt by businessman Silvio Zammit.

I hans uttalande as a witness in the case Barroso said: “I told Dalli it would be better for him to resign on his own initiative, to clear his name.

“If he did not follow that path, I told him that as president of the Commission, I would have to ask him to resign in keeping with Article 17 (6) of the Treaty.”

He accused Dalli of having had “strange contacts” with the tobacco industry “outside the Commission – many thousands of kilometres outside – without any officials being present”.

Fråga om integritet

Barroso said that as a lawyer he believed in the presumption of innocence, but that “here we are speaking about political conditions… it was no longer tenable for him to continue”.

He said that in his 10 years as Commission president he had never experienced a similar situation, with such “serious allegations against the integrity of a commissioner directly related to the exercise of his duties”. “And I never experienced a similar loss of confidence!” he added.

He said the Commission’s integrity had been put at risk, in a way that could have been as damaging as the scandal in 1999 which forced Jacques Santer’s Commission to resign en masse.

The judges’ verdict is not expected before the new Commission takes office in October.

In 2012 Dalli was preparing tough new EU legislation – a reform of the Tobacco Products Directive – to make smoking less attractive. It would also affect snus.

Tobaksproducenten Swedish Match sa att den hade blivit ombedd att betala 60 miljoner euro (49 miljoner pund; 79 miljoner dollar), och i gengäld skulle kommissionären urvattna den nya lagstiftningen.

Dalli ersattes i november 2012 av den maltesiske politikern Tonio Borg.

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