The European commission’s incoming president has been pilloried for giving the EU’s most senior official on migration the job title “Protecting our European Way of Life”.
Ursula von der Leyen, who takes office on 1 November, announced she had given the title to the European commission vice-president in charge of migration and skilled labour.
MEPs, who must approve the makeup of Von der Leyen’s team before it can take office, were deeply critical.
The senior Labour MEP Claude Moraes, a former chair of the European parliament’s justice and home affairs committee, said the title could not stand. “Calling the European commission migration portfolio ‘protecting our way of life’ is deeply insulting,” he said.
Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Liberal MEP who also works on migration law, said the decision was misguided and urged Von der Leyen to withdraw the title. “The very point about the European way of life is the freedom for individuals to choose their own way of life,” she said. “We do not need a commissioner for that, thank you very much.
“The implication that Europeans need to be protected from external cultures is grotesque and this narrative should be rejected.”
Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president given the role, isnot using the title in his Twitter biography, instead describing himself as commissioner-designate for migration, security, social rights, education, youth and culture.
Schinas, who was the European commission’s chief spokesman until appointed Greece’s European commissioner, will be in charge of other European commissioners working on these policy areas, including the commissioner for home affairs.
His title was not the only one that raised eyebrows. Valdis Dombrovskis, returning for a second term, will resume his job leading EU policy on financial stability, but with the job title of “An Economy that Works for People”. The commission will also have vice-presidents in charge of “a stronger Europe in the world”, “Europe fit for a digital age” and “democracy and demography”.
The fuzzy aspirational titles contrast with the outgoing commission, which uses prosaic factual terms, such as “foreign policy and security” or “digital single market”.
The EU law professor Alberto Alemanno said he was deeply troubled by the “infelicitous semantic choice” of job titles “as they reflect a sense of detachment from European realities”.