The resignation of EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection John Dalli, after a European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigation into trafficking of influence allegations made against him, has taken a legal and political turn that is increasingly embarrassing for Brussels. The “Dalligate” affair, as it has been dubbed by the press, has been marked by a number of new developments which the front page of the Times of Malta summarises as follows: “Barroso warning to Dalli, as Attorney General passes EU report to police. OLAF supervisory board member resigns over breach of procedure”.
In a letter sent on 24 October, the European Commission President “responded to the public allegations made by Mr Dalli [with regard to his 16 October resignation] and warned him to “behave with integrity” in line with the terms of EU treaty provisions on former Commissioners,” writes the daily, which further reports that “the Commission may be considering the formal sacking of Malta’s former Commissioner, depriving him from lucrative transition allowances and a pension.”
José Manuel Barroso’s letter particularly referred to Dalli’s denial of the accusations made against him, and that he intended to petition European or Maltese courts to invalidate his decision to resign, which was made under pressure from the Commission President. The newspaper adds that in another development on 24 October, the Maltese Attorney General issued a recommendation to the Maltese police to enable it to conduct its own investigation.
On the same day, the chairman of the OLAF supervisory board, Christiaan Timmermans tendered his resignation. As Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has previously reported, Timmermans made his decision to protest against the fact that the supervisory board had not been informed about the transfer from OLAF of information concerning Dalli to the Maltese judiciary.
“Sending John Dalli to the European Commission was a piece of very-high-risk strategy with a 99.9% certainty of blowing up in Malta’s face”, remarks columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia in The Malta Independent. Arguing that the former commissioner “should never have been dispatched to such an important post”, she continues —
… sending him to sit in the European Commission was an act of grave disrespect to that Commission and to the position itself. […] He has turned himself into a national embarrassment. He has continued to compound his dishonour and to illustrate further just why he was unfit for office by turning himself into a circus act. […] Is there nobody who can stop Dalli’s progress down the rabbit-hole? Clearly not. The most worrying aspect of this business is that he seems not concerned so much at the loss of his position, but at the loss of what that position meant to him in terms of opportunities.
“Both controversy and mystery surround Mr Dalli’s resignation”,notes the Times of Malta editorial, which insists that the affair should be resolved as quickly as possible —
Mr Dalli speaks of a conspiracy against him. The fact that the report of the OLAF investigation that led to his resignation has not been published yet further fuels the controversy and thickens the mystery veil. Thus, the sooner the report is released the better it will be for everybody, including the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, who demanded Mr Dalli’s resignation, and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who accepted that decision.