Updated: Dalli given the nod by committees and will pass for commission role

Dr Helena Dalli has received a vote of two-thirds by the Women’s Rights (FEMM) and Employment (EMPL) Committees and their coordinators, deeming her suitable for the role of Equality Commissioner.

A European Commission spokesperson confirmed to Newsbook.com.mt that Dr Dalli had received the two-thirds majority required by the two committees in order for her to proceed to the next stage of scrutiny.

They explained that there are more hearings to come this month and should Dr Dalli pass, she will need to be approved officially by an MEP plenary vote on October 23rd.

“Presented a strong vision for equality” – PL

In a statement the Labour Party congratulated Dalli “for presenting a vision for equality before the members of the European Parliament.”

“The Maltese people should really be proud of Helena Dalli for such an important responsibility in the new European Commission. Today Dalli clearly demonstrated that she can bear equal weight of this office to improve the lives of citizens throughout the European Union without any distinction.’

“I give my word to promote sexual and reproductive rights without exception”- Dalli

14:38: And she’s off! At the moment, the procedure is being outlined and Dalli will soom start a 15 min statement.

14:41: Speaking in Maltese, Helena Dalli said that this portfolio is a level at which her life-long mission had prepared her. Switching to English, sh described discrimination as a wasteful process which harms society and disconnects people and community. She praised Von Der Leyen’s choice of the nomenclature of the portfolio. “I am willing to work hard with the committees which have been set up to see that this vision is put into practice” said Dalli. She stressed that she intended to work in dialogue with the MEPs and the lobby groups to implement the measures.

14:50: Dalli speaks of the need to step up on equality and the EU needs to take a global leadership role in this direction. She said that entering politics at a young age, she believed in the possibility of bringing a change in society. “This is only possible if we politicians have the courage to make the necessary changes” said Dalli. She said that fairer societies need to be built and equality needs to become par for the course. “Taking action at the EU level is the right way to go” said Dalli.

A promise to keep: strategy task force in 3 months

14:55: Committed to equality, Dalli said that she will build her policy on three strands: fight against discrimination, full inclusion and promotion of equality. She has also promised a taskforce on gender equality within the first three months for the formulation of a gender equality strategy. She said that she would also press for full implementation of work-life balance directive, ensuring that this promotes equality. To a background of clapping, Dalli said that “Equality is not a zero sum game”.

15:05: Answering a question by Frances Fitzgerald, on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Dalli referred to it as femicide. ” Extraordinary events require extraordinary measures” said Dalli saying that the FBI and Europol had been called in and in 50 day 3 persons had been indicted. “I will do all in my prower to guarantee free press from harassment” said Dalli.

MEP Frances Fitzgerald

15:10: MEP Regner (S&D) asked what strategy would be used for gender equality. Dalli said that she would work to take gender mainstreaming to another level and also to unblock the current legislation ‘WOmen on Board’ directive which is currently in an impasse. In a follow-up, Dalli gave no concrete reply but said she would push for a general approach in council.

Abortion issue

15:12: Replying to French MEP, Dalli said that as a committed feminist “I will stay strong on sexual and reproductive help and you have my word that these these rights will be pushed without exception” said Dalli. She added that the resistance needs to be taken on and “we must be strong and fight them” said Dalli. She said that she would be working with other commissioners to ensure that the European way of life will be safeguarded.

15:21: MEP Anderson referred to Dalli’s previous comments, she asked how the prospected Commissioner feels about a very liberal approach to gender determination. The reference here is the case in the US where a person may simply assert the gender the person feels it belongs to . Dalli said that she was in favour of such a liberal approach asserting that she had passed such legislation in Malta. In Malta, change in gender can be made through appropriate legal action, not as in the US.

15:25: “Gender re-assignment is not a walk in the park. It makes life for all involved very hard” said Dalli, calling for respect to those who need politicians to understand them. Clearly playing to the audience, Dalli related some human stories which underlined the suffering of these people who find their gender difficult to identify with.

15:30: The Polish MEP Wisniewska, asked for a clear guarantee that Helena Dalli will follow the regulation of the EU on Abortion. She chided Dalli for perceived lack of respect in turning an answer into an audience puller. Dalli said that abortion is the responsibility of the member states and as commissioner she will always respect the treaties. Referring to Female Genital Mutilation as a scourge, Dalli said that away from all that the EU can do it is also up to the communities to help in cases of FGM and forced marriages.

15:36: Commissioner Dalli referred to family stereotypes and said that these must be broken and changed to reflect the reality in families today. Replying to questions on childcare, Dalli said that this is essential if one is to tackle the participation of both parents in the labour market. She said that in Malta the number of women in the labour market rose dramatically when childcare was made free of charge. “If we do not have affordable childcare, we cannot truly implement work-life balance” said Dalli who vowed to push for funds for this aspect.

15:40: Abortion, masked as ‘reproductive rights, was placed again on the agenda, with an MEP asking for surety that these will all be safeguarded. Dalli said that that the UN and EU regulations will be upheld.

15:45: Maltese MEP David Casa, referring to the directive he himself piloted, the work-life balance, he asked how she plans to implement the full workings of the directive. Dalli thanked Casa for his sterling work and said that this directive needs to be implemented and workshops should be set up to raise awareness and seek the best ways this can be implemented. “Families need to benefit from it,” said Dalli, ” particularly in the family unit organisation”.

15:48: Casa followed up with a question on the Panama Papers and asked how Dalli would ensure that the rule of law is applied to all and that there is “not one rule for gods and one for animals”, paraphrasing Minister Evarist Bartolo. Dalli replied that she had shown that she believed in accountability by backing the law which makes PEPs accountable for life.

Equal Opportunities means also disabilities

15:55: Dalli was asked what actions she plans to take to ensure that persons with disabilities are included properly in the workforce so that the issue of disabilities can be places on the agenda properly. Dalli replied that by next year 20% of EU citizens will be living with a disability and the current transposition of various acts as part of the inclusion strategy is well underway. “I will do my best to unblock the Equal Treatment Strategy” said Dalli.

16:00: Dalli insisted that disability mainstreaming is very important and lots of work still needs to be done for full inclusion to be achieved. She said that the strategy evaluation will also focus on what still needs to be done and particularly on unblocking the Equal treatment Directive. She re-iterated for the umpteenth time her willingness to be open and co-operative with all the movers, shakers and players in the sector. Referring to hate speech, Dalli said that this is a very key issue, particularly with women who avoid the digital sphere because of this form of bullying.

16:05: Answering a question on violence against women, Dalli said that this is a very real issue which cost Eur226 billion annually. She said that prevention, policy and prosecution are basic and she would be making a push so that the Istanbul convention against gender based violence is ratified by all countries.

16:16: Emphatically promising all her work on the issue of equality for the disabled, Dalli said that she wanted an open dialogue with parliament. She said that listening is as important as talking and constructive criticism is most helpful. Answering concerns raised on the victims of domestic violence such as Children, Dalli said that she would be working with the commissioner responsible for children to ensure that this aspect is covered.

The Daphne who would not go away

16:25: Ms Elissavet VOZEMBERG-VRIONIDI (FEMM) for EPP said that it was a shame that the perpetrator for the femicide of Caruana Galizia has not yet been apprehended. She asked what Dalli was going to do to address the glass ceiling and the digital gap. Dalli said that this was part of the strategy she planned to implement. She added that IT cannot remain a man’s domain.

16:30: Dalli said that the issue of equal rights for LGBTIQ+ groups means that an evaluative process needs to be undertaken so that the blocks in the paths to equality are lifted.

16:35: Lefteris NIKOLAOU (EMPL) said that a vast percentage of women do get get employment protection when pregnant and he asked the commissioner designate how she intends to protect these women. Dalli said that these issues will be discussed with the commissioner for employment to address these issue more directly. Replying on the EHCR ruling that pregnant women may be made redundant when there are redundancies.

16:40: MEP Alex Saliba, following a pean of praise to Dalli, focussed on Casa’s directive for work-life balance and asked if the scope of this directive should be widened. Dalli relied that, as she had told MEP Casa earlier, the implementation should be carried out immediately as is and then widened as required. Replying to disability mainstreaming, Dalli said that this will be implemented across the board,

16:50: Maria Eugenia RODRIGUEZ PALLOP (EMPL) asked about exploitation of vulnerable workers, often women, particularly what measures were being proposed to deal with addressing equality in this area. Dalli said that this too, is an area where a task force can can help implement change across portfolios.

17:00: Dalli spoke at some length on the need to ensure economic independence for women to ensure empowerment for women. Better conditions of work will help women integrate more and be more productive. Alex Louise PHILIPS (EMPL/FEMM) a Greens MEP insisted on legislative proposals and not simply referrals to task forces. Dalli siad that she would consider what the speaker said.

17:03 Lívia JÁRÓKA (FEMM), praising Daphne as a ‘wonderful journalist’ and placing her at par with the commissioner designate, asked about the gender pay gap. Dalli said that this will be put forward in the first 100 days, describing as unacceptable that women’s pay gap and therefore pension gap has been left to linger by the wayside of legislation.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, Dalli said that equality can never be taken for granted and, if entrusted with the role, the goals would need to be met. She observed that little children interact wothout a notion of discrimination. “Children teach us the meaning of unconditional love” said Dalli and they will be the ones to help society unlearn its discriminatory habits. She added that discriminations weaken society and, she concluded, there is enough equality for everyone “If people can be taught to hate, then they can be taught to love” concluded Dalli paraphrasing Mandela

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The hearing which each prospective Commissioner for the EU must undergo, colloquially known as the grilling, will start on Wednesday 14:30h in Brussels. Newsbook.com.mt will be keeping you updated in real time.

Meanwhile in a press briefing Wednesday morning, the Director of media for the EU, Jesus Carmona explained the journey which each prospective commissioner must traipse before taking office.

Helena Dalli’s big day

Maria Noichl FEMM MEP was clear ” Dalli is not Maltese any more and when it comes to abortion, Malta stands out and in the EU the line is that the woman has the right over her own body.” This broadside was one of the first statement issued by the FEMM representative adding that in the case of abortion, Malta stands out in the EU. She said that Dalli will have to keep her own ideas and past firmly in their place and remember that she acts on behalf of the EU. “She will certainly be asked about abortion and she will have to understand that she will now have a whole different patchwork of laws to contend with. At FEMM it is clear that women cannot be forced to terminate or continue their pregnancy against their will” said the FEMM representative.

Dalli has to toe the EU line on abortion – FEMM