A provocative line-up of new European Commissioners named by new President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, a German politican, has the chief executive’s former spokesman, Margaritis Schinas of Greece, named Vice-President and overseeing a new portfolio that will cover “protection of the European way of life,” drawing immediate fire from critics.
On his Twitter account, he wrote: “Thrilled to be nominated as VP for Protecting our Way of Life covering #migration, #security, #employment, #education. Ready to get down to work & looking forward to discussing with @Europarl_EN about how we can translate our political priorities into real results for Europeans.”
Detractors didn’t agree, pouring derision on the appointment of the veteran of Greece’s ruling New Democracy, calling the new charge “grotesque” and “a far-right slogan,” that undermines the bloc’s alleged reaching out to everyone, apart from refugees and migrants who’ve been barred.
Schinas will also be responsible for upholding the rule-of-law internal security and migration.
After the outgoing fellow New Democracy colleague Dimitris Avramopoulos, who let refugee and migrant crisis in Greece fester for almost five years, the country trying to handle more than 70,000 of them, Schinas will be the second straight Greek in charge of the problem across the EU.
“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!” the news agency Reuters reported about the barrage of criticism.
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,” adding that 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.
The problem has become more acute in Greece in the wake of New Democracy winning July 7 snap elections and ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.
Thousands more refugees and migrants have flooded Greek islands, with Turkey allowing human traffickers to operate during a largely-suspended swap deal with the EU, leading the new government to say it would speed transfers, deportations and move thousands off Greek island detention centers and camps onto the mainland. The islands are holding more than 22,700.
Schinas has spent his career since 1990 in Brussels in various capacities, as a Member of the European Parliament, Deputy Director of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers, and chief of staff for the Cypriot Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou.