EU president-in-waiting accused of pandering to 'extreme right' with new migration office

PUBLISHED: 11:06 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:06 13 September 2019

Incoming EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Omer Messinger/Getty Images

Incoming EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Omer Messinger/Getty Images

2019 Getty Images

There has been an outcry from MEPs and Jean-Claude Juncker after the incoming EU president established an office "for protecting our European way of life".

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The newly-appointed Ursula von der Leyen has put Magartis Schinas in the role, which handles migration across the EU 27.

But there has been an immediate backlash from across the political spectrum, including Juncker, for the job title's implication that the European way of life and immigration are mutually exclusive.

The outgoing president said: "I don't like the idea that the European way of life is opposed to migration. Accepting those that come from far away is part of the European way of life.

"A European way of life is putting together our main talents and energies, and included in that room is the fact that you have to respect the others, independently from their color and independently from their initial home state," he added.

Green Party MEP Magid Magid, who campaigned for his post on a strongly pro-immigration stance, wrote a scathing opinion piece in response. "The slogan rings not of pan-European solidarity or federalism - but is incorporated from the playbook of the extreme right," he said in Euobserver.

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

He remarked that von der Leyen had initially set out her stall by telling far-right groups she did not want their support, but is now seeking to "pander" to them.

"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," he wrote.

The new title follows a pattern adopted by the new president of abandoning traditional job names in favour of more goal-oriented ones, such as commissioners for "A Stronger Europe in the World" and "An Economy that Works for People".

But the migration office title has caused the biggest stir.

Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld told The Independent that the title is "grotesque".

"The implication that Europeans need to be protected from external cultures is grotesque and this narrative should be rejected," she told the paper.

Commentators are now expecting a U-turn from von der Leyen.

"I think that this will have to be changed," said Juncker.

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