BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Critics poured scorn on the incoming chief of the EU’s executive on Tuesday after she named among her line-up of commissioners an official responsible for “Protecting our European Way of Life”, branding it “grotesque” and “a far-right slogan”.
There were a few surprises in the team unveiled by European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, including a 28-year-old responsible for the environment and oceans, and a vice-president responsible for “an Economy that Works for People”.
But there was ridicule and outrage over the appointment of a commissioner to protect the European Way of Life, who will also be responsible for upholding the rule-of-law, migration and internal security across the bloc, which will be 27 member nations after Britain leaves the EU.
Von der Leyen named Greece’s Margaritis Schinas, a former Member of the European Parliament and a long-serving official of the European Commission, for the role.
“It’s a far-right slogan!” the European Trade Union said in a tweet. “And why ... is migration in this portfolio? We need protection for our democracy, against climate change etc - not against migrants!”
Ska Keller, president of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, said in a statement that putting migration and border protection under a portfolio on protecting the European way of life was “scary”.
“We hope President von der Leyen doesn’t see a contradiction between supporting refugees and European values,” she said.
Dutch Liberal member of the European Parliament Sophie in ‘t Veld, slamming what she dubbed a “fake portfolio”, said the very point about the European way of life is that individuals have the freedom to choose their own way of life.
“The implication that Europeans need to be protected from external cultures is grotesque and this narrative should be rejected,” she said in a statement.
Reporting by John Chalmers; Editing by Giles Elgood