A new portfolio created by the European Commission named “Protecting our European Way of Life” has stirred controversy, with the EU’s executive being accused of adopting far-right rhetoric. Its role includes steering the European Union’s policy on migration and security issues as well as upholding the rule-of-law across the bloc. However, this latest move by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen was heavily criticized for linking migration portfolio with safeguarding ‘European values’, saying the slogan suggested that migrants were threatening European values.
The slogan was immediately denounced by the European Trade Union because “it’s a far-right slogan!” while a Dutch Liberal member of the European Parliament slammed it for being a “fake portfolio”, saying that “the implication that Europeans need to be protected from external cultures is grotesque and this narrative should be rejected.” Ska Keller, president of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, finds “scary” when the new Commission puts migration and border protection under a portfolio on protecting the European way of life. “We hope President von der Leyen doesn’t see a contradiction between supporting refugees and European values,” Ms. Keller said. Amnesty International also rebuffed the portfolio name, accusing Brussels of “using the framing of the far right by linking migration with security”.
Von der Leyen said her new cabinet that includes 27 commissioners was “as diverse as Europe is”, but observers noted that all of its members are white. The incoming Commission chief hails from the right-of-center European People’s Party (EPP), the parliament’s biggest group, of which Hungary’s anti-migrant Fidesz party is also an influential and very vocal member. The EPP has been under pressure in many European nations, having lost electoral ground to far-right parties, such as Rassemblement National (National Rally) in France and Alternative fur Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) in Germany. In her mission letter to the Margaritis Schinas, a former Greek member of the European Parliament, who will be in charge of the new portfolio, von der Leyen underlined that “we must address and allay legitimate fears and concerns about the impact of irregular migration on our economy and society.”