Friday

10th Apr 2020

Opinion

Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

  • Green UK MEP Magid Magid. 'Migration is not a threat to Europe, and 'external' cultures do not endanger European life' (Photo: Magid Magid)

President Ursula von der Leyen's preferred rhetoric during the reveal of her proposed Commission is a far cry from the alluring language she imploringly employed when pressing the European Parliament for its support just two months ago.

Rather than committing towards creating an inclusive, compassionate Europe centred around equality and humanity, von der Leyen has shown her shameful hand by establishing an office for "protecting our European way of life", and enlisting the commissioner responsible to coordinate the application of inhumane immigration controls and heartlessness in our hard external borders.

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The slogan rings not of pan-European solidarity or federalism - but is incorporated from the playbook of the extreme right.

Migration is not a threat to Europe, and 'external' cultures do not endanger European life.

What is a threat to Europeans and European security is the rise of white nationalism, fascism and far-right disaster capitalism within our constituent nations, which seek to spuriously scapegoat migrants for the struggles faced by communities across our continent, in order to protect the power and privilege of the plutocratic political elite.

Indeed, the rise in extreme nationalist projects are as a direct result of wealthy corporations, investing to protect their own interests, at any cost to humanity.

In July, after her nomination for the presidency was confirmed, president von der Leyen boldly told certain far-right groups in the European parliament that she did not want their support.

She was, of course, successful in the subsequent vote, and it later transpired that a large cohort of far-right MEPs had voted for her anyway.

Perhaps they were given foreknowledge of the commission's intentions.

By adopting an undeniably ultra-right framework to compartmentalise the policy portfolios which comprise her platform, von der Leyen has rendered all previous pledges towards a progressive plan for Europe hollow.

Talk of "protecting Europe" from migrants is an undisguised attack on the 'other' - on ethnic minorities and people like myself who seek refuge, asylum and a better life.

It is a cold, calculated statement that the life of a child drowning in the Mediterranean, and the pregnant mother detained at a border, is a threat to the life of European citizens.

It is an unequivocal message to those who do not conform to von der Leyen's narrow definition of what it means to be European that they do not belong.

The new president also proceeded to make the inexplicably audacious remark that her nominees were 'as diverse as Europe itself' - despite each proposed commissioner happening to be white and middle-class.

If von der Leyen was referring to a "diversity" of political platforms, then it would not be outlandish to state - judging from her choice of language - that she is more tolerant of xenophobes and the far-right, than she is of migrants and minorities.

The European establishment that the new president seeks to defend has acknowledged that the European Union faces an existential threat, and has decided that the most expedient way to ensure continuity and survival is to pander to xenophobes like Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Bart De Wever, Viktor Orban and the like, and their most ardent supporters, by co-opting their fascistic framing of policy.

This course of action is knowingly at the expense of existing immigrant communities for whom the language is both hurtful and harmful and all those decent folk who don't wish to live in a continent whose character is defined by the far-right.

This sinister swing towards hate and division is clearly an ill choice of direction for the new commission - and is a hallmark of sheer cowardice.

True courage and principle is not to forcefully victimise our fellow human beings when they need us most.

True courage and principle is standing by European treaties, UN conventions, the rule of law and our basic human responsibilities in the face of increasingly autocratic far-right leaders seizing control and curtailing democracy in some of our member nations.

'Not in my name'

Ursula von der Leyen should know that the "European way of life" means security and prosperity for all, and a compassionate welcome to all who seek to be a part of it too.

Assuming the far-right's language and policy, hardening our borders and our hearts, closing our minds and our ports - that is not the European way.

Our happiness, comfort and safety does not come at the expense of our fellow brothers and sisters who are left to suffer at our doorstep. Migrants are people, not a burden, nor a nuisance, and certainly not a threat.

As a member of European Parliament, unless we see a drastic rethink and rewrite from von der Leyen and her team that includes the withdrawal of the ultra-right framing of migration, I will be voting against the entire slate of commission nominees.

Words and titles are not irrelevant and least of all from the president of the EU commission.

Author bio

Magid Magid is a British-Somali MEP from the Green party, representing Yorkshire and the Humber in the north of England.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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