Margaritas Schinas, a former chief spokesman for the European Commission, has been elected to a vice-president of the Brussels-based executive. The Greek was nominated by Athens to become its commissioner and has been tasked with policing the bloc’s fragile borders and illegal migration crisis for the next five years. But critics have claimed that Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming Commission president, has rebadged the controversial issues to please the Continent’s populists.
The bloc was accused of adopting “facist thinking” as criticism flooding in shortly after the policy portfolio was announced.
French MEP Damien Careme, from the Greens, condemned the move as “an abomination”.
He added: “It looks pretty but when one realises that it means he will be in charge of migration, integration and security, then it’s absolutely disgusting.”
Environment campaigners Friends of the Earth, on Twitter, said: “New EU Commission president von der Leyen has appointed a commissioner for ‘protecting the European way of life’.
“The idea that ‘Europeans’ need to be shielded from external cultures is facist thinking that shouldn’t be anywhere near migration policy.”
Labour Party MEP Claude Moraes said: “Protecting our European way of life should not seriously have been a portfolio title in a modern European Commission of 2019.”
Human rights campaigners Amnesty International’s EU branch said: “Linking migration with security in the portfolio of the commissioner for protecting our European way of life risks sending a worrying message.”
Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato said: “Von der Leyen has defined controlling migration as defending the European way of life.
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“Green MEPs believe that migrants have contributed hugely to the vibrant European way of life enjoy today.
“This appropriation of the rhetoric of the far-right must end.”
Outlining her mission to Mr Schinas in a letter, Ms von der Leyen wrote that the “European way of life is built on the principle of dignity and equality for all”.
The former German defence minister vowed to push for “more when it comes to protecting our citizens and our values”.
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She has tasked Mr Schinas with “upholding the role of law” and implementing “strong borders and a fresh start on migration”, insisting the issues are key to protecting the “European way of life”.
Despite the criticism, the newly-appointed Greek commissioner celebrated his role, saying he was “thrilled to be nominated”.
He added: “From better protecting our citizens and borders and modernising our asylum system, to investing in Europeans’ skills and creating brighter futures for our youth, I am confident that we can take great strides over the next five years to both protect and empower Europeans.”
Mr Schinas and the 24 other nominated commissioners now face being grilled by MEPs in the European Parliament by the end of September.
MEPs must first vote on Ms von der Leyen’s entire top team before they can take office, which is expected to take place on November 1.
According to EU sources, MEPs are expected to question the naming of the portfolio before accepting the Commission president-elect’s package.
They are also expected to put down a challenge to the Hungarian appointment, László Trócsányi, as part of the institution’s ongoing row with prime minister Viktor Orban.
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