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EU Commission incoming chief changes title for migration portfolio after controversy

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FILE PHOTO: EU Commission President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen holds a speech on the present situation in Europe, in Berlin, Germany November 8, 2019.
FILE PHOTO: EU Commission President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen holds a speech on the present situation in Europe, in Berlin, Germany November 8, 2019. -
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EU incoming chief Ursula von der Leyen changed the name of a European Commission's migration portfolio on Wednesday after the original title, "Protecting our European Way of Life," sparked criticism for its far-right connotations.

"President-elect Ursula von der Leyen agreed following fruitful discussions with the European Parliament, to make several adjustments concerning the names of portfolios of future Commissioners," the EU Commission said in a statement.

"The portfolio of Vice-President-designate Margaritis Schinas will be named 'Promoting the European Way of Life'," the statement continued.

Schinas, a former member of the European Parliament and a long-serving official at the Commission, is to steer the bloc's policy-making on migration and security as well as education and employment.

The original name given to the portfolio had sparked accusations of "fascist thinking" lobbed at the Commission from the left and beyond.

READ MORE: What's the 'European way of life'? EU chief's new Commission portfolio draws criticism

Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in an interview at the time that he did not like the idea that migration was in opposition to the European way of life.

"Accepting those coming [from] far away...is part of the European way of life," he said, adding that the portfolio should be more precise.

'Victory for Parliament'

At the request of French Green MEP Karima Delli, lawmakers in parliament sent a letter to von der Leyen in support of changing the name.

Delli hailed the name change on Twitter on Wednesday. "Von der Leyen ended up listening to reason. It's a victory against the nauseating ideas of the far-right and above all for European values."

Speaking to Euronews, Delli said that the change from 'protection' to 'promotion' made a difference.

"Promotion has this connotation of openness to others, whereas protection evokes, walls, fortifications, railings," the lawmaker said.

“We all agree that the European way of life is an achievement we must preserve, but it doesn’t have to be defended, rather promoted," said Iraxte Garcia, leader of the Socialists and Democrats grouping in the European Parliament.

Dimitris Papadimoulis, MEP with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left group and the Vice President of the EP, said that while the change was not completely satisfactory, "it shows that when the parliament demands something by a large majority, even the president of the commission is forced to step down."

Delli also said the change marked "a victory for the European Parliament" rather than just for Green and left-wing groups.

"This shows how the parliament has regained a real influence again," she said, adding that the initiative was supported by the majority of Committee chairs - which come from different political groups.

"With this gesture, von der Leyen is giving a sign of appeasement to the parliament ahead of a crucial vote," the lawmaker told Euronews.

MEPs blocked three picks for von Der Leyen's team, deeming them unsuitable to become commissioners.

That has pushed back the date she hoped her Commission would take over, from November 1 to December 1 at the earliest.

Von der Leyen still needs MEPs to confirm her replacement picks for commissioners, especially France's Thierry Breton, a multi-millionaire former minister who barely scraped through the parliament's legal affairs grilling.

READ MORE: Team Ursula: new candidates face scrutiny

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