“A sad day for Malta”, writes the Times of Malta, on the resignation of the Maltese European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli.
Dalli was suspected of trafficking of influence after a complaint filed with OLAF, the EU anti-fraud office, by the tobacco company Swedish Match in May 2012. The Swedish producer alleged that it was approached by Maltese businessman Silvio Zammit, who offered to take advantage of his close association with Dalli to influence Commission proposals for reinforced tobacco legislation. Although the inquiry did not reveal evidence of Dalli’s “direct participation”, it nonetheless concluded that he was “aware of events”.
Notwithstanding his denial of any involvement, the editorial in the Times of Malta argues that the allegations against John Dalli were “serious enough to have caused him to leave”. The daily continues —
This is, of course, not the first time that Mr Dalli has faced troubled waters in his long career. Soon after being appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs after the 2004 election, Mr Dalli was forced to resign after certain allegations were made about his ministerial conduct.
In its report on the scandal, French business daily Les Echos examines the reaction in Brussels —
The European Commission appears to be in a hurry to shake off the affair […] In Brussels, Commissioner Dalli, was not very popular. In charge of very important files such as the authorisation of medicines, as well as consumer protection, he was accused of being reluctant to root out conflicts of interest in EU agencies […], and his management of last year’s e-coli crisis was not appreciated […]. For Brussels, the scandal couldn’t have come at a worse time, much to the eurosceptics’ delight.
The business daily also points out that “no commissioner has had to resign” since the Commission presided by Jacques Santer was forced to step down amid allegations of mismanagement in 1999.