Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

'Migration' is now 'protecting European way of life'

  • 'Protecting our European Way of Life', formerly known as 'migration', is now the task of Margaritis Schinas (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The next European Commission has created a new vice-presidency post dealing with migration but titled it "Protecting our European Way of Life".

Margartis Schinas, the former commission chief spokesperson, has been promoted to oversee the portfolio.

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In a tweet on Tuesday (10 September), Schinas said he was thrilled to take on the task, noting it will also entail issues dealing with security, employment and education.

But given the toxic politics surrounding migration, the re-naming of Schinas's portfolio "Protecting our European Way of Life" has roused a slew of questions.

"A portfolio with a title like this just cannot stand in my view," tweeted British Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who previously chaired the European Parliament's powerful civil liberties committee.

"I will raise it in my group tonight as a reminder that the European parliament has to OK all of this," he added.

Ska Keller, the German co-president of the Greens group, described the portfolio renaming as "scary."

"We hope president von der Leyen doesn't see a contradiction between supporting refugees and European values," she said.

Flowery language

Asked to explain, European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels that the title is from her political guidelines.

"'Our European way of life' is upholding values and the beauty of dignity of every single human being," she said, noting that everyone has the same rights.

Similar flowery language has been used by Schinas, who as chief EU commission spokesperson, once told journalists that the "EU is the world protagonist of asylum. Nobody else in the world provides so generously asylum."

But such comments come on the back of years of abuse and neglect of migrants and refugees stranded on EU hotspots in Greece.

The European commission has refused responsibility, delegating the blame onto the Greek government and administration despite providing them with over €2bn in aid.

It also comes amid the recent death of a 15-year old boy who was knifed to death in camp Moria, an EU hotspot in the Greek island of Lesbos.

It follows the threat of million euro Italian fines for NGOs who rescue people at sea, which the commission has refused to denounce.

It also comes against a backdrop of a constant Hungarian and Polish state anti-migrant backlash, whose populist governments were instrumental in getting von der Leyen her presidency post.

All-white diversity

Von der Leyen said migration management starts with countries of origin, job creation, fight against smuggling and organised crime, functioning external borders, and sending people without international protection back home.

"We have to be clear about what is asylum, who is eligible for asylum, and what are we doing with those migrants coming irregularly who are not eligible for asylum," she said.

She noted that Dublin, the regulation that determines who handles asylum applications, needs reform. She would not specify when asked whether the her commission plans to drop the stalled regulation.

The broad policy direction on migration appears similar to the outgoing commission, but the designation of "Protecting our European Way of Life" is open to interpretation that it may be a veiled attempt to appease the far-right in Hungary and Poland.

Her comments also came after she presented the all-white 27 commissioner-designates as a representation of Europe's diversity.

"This is the team, as diverse as Europe, as strong as Europe," she told reporters after listing all their names, failing to mention the numerous minority groups that also make up Europe.

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A number of MEPs pressed Margaritis Schinas to drop the "Protecting the European Way of Life" title of his portfolio, which deals with migration. But Schinas refused, claiming it needs protecting from terrorists and populists. He failed to convince.

Opinion

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The new migration commissioner's job title, "Protecting our European way of life", rings not of pan-European solidarity or federalism - but is incorporated from the playbook of the extreme right.

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