BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The incoming chief of the EU’s executive on Monday defended her decision to name among the line-up of new European Commission members an official responsible for “Protecting our European Way of Life”, which critics have derided as a far-right slogan.
European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s comments on the controversy came after French far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen hailed the appointment as an “ideological victory”.
Von der Leyen posted on Twitter an excerpt from the EU’s constitutional Treaty of Lisbon that says the bloc is founded on values that include respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights.
“The European way of life also means listening and debating with one another to find solutions for the common good. This is what I want us to do together,” she said.
Her announcement last week that there would be a commissioner to protect the European Way of Life, who will be responsible for managing migration affairs in the bloc, was greeted with ridicule and outrage.
Among the critics, the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA group said that putting migration and border protection under a portfolio on protecting the European way of life was “scary”.
Addressing party faithful on Sunday in the French Riviera town of Frejus, where she mapped out her path to a presidential run in 2022, Le Pen said the appointment “speaks volumes”.
“It confirms our ideological victory,” said Le Pen, who has often criticised the EU but stopped short of any vow to usher France out of the bloc.
She said that, under pressure from national governments, the EU had been “forced to admit that immigration poses questions about the future of Europeans’ way of life”.
Von der Leyen named Greece’s Margaritis Schinas, a former member of the European Parliament and a long-serving official of the European Commission, for the role in her team that is due to take office on Nov. 1.
In his Twitter profile, Schinas describes himself as Commissioner-designate for migration, security, social rights, education, culture and youth, but not as the guardian of a European Way of Life.
(Reporting by John Chalmers, editing by Ed Osmond)