EU Parliament chief questions ‘European Way of Life’ title

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David Sassoli, Giuseppe Conte

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, left, shakes hands with President of the European Parliament David Sassoli before their meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Parliament’s president said Thursday that he will meet with incoming European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to discuss her contentious decision to nominate a commissioner responsible for “protecting our European Way of Life.”

The name for the proposed commission portfolio, which includes migration, has caused an outcry, with critics considering it a concession to far-right, anti-migrant ideas.

European Parliament President David Sassoli told reporters he decided to seek a meeting with von der Leyen, who will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as commission president on Nov. 1, after several political groups commented on the “bizarre” titles of some portfolios.

“I assume that probably in the rush to give names to these portfolios there was a slightly casual approach and we ended up with these rather bizarre names,” he said.

In addition to the “Protecting Our European Way of Life” portfolio, von der Leyen’s proposed commission also includes job titles such as “Europe fit for the digital age” or “An Economy That Works for People.”

Sassoli invited von der Leyen to attend a Sept. 19 meeting of political group chiefs at the European Parliament to discuss the issue.

Von der Leyen unveiled the team of commissioners she wants to work with over the next five years earlier this week. The names she has put forward should get approval from the European Parliament.

Some critics said the name of the portfolio to be held by Greek nominee Margaritis Schinas is an insult to European values and has been chosen to please the far-right at a time when populist and xenophobic ideas are on the rise across the continent.

“An all-white European Commission claiming to protect ‘our European way of life’ is a far cry from the idea of unity in diversity on which this union is built,” said Philippe Lamberts, the president of the Greens group at the European Parliament. “Von der Leyen must present a better proposal” next week.

Asked whether the European Commission was considering a name change for the highly political portfolio, spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said no quick decision would be made but the commission was listening to the different points of view.

Speaking to Euronews TV channel, Juncker said he didn’t agree with the new name of the portfolio because “accepting those coming from far away in Europe is part of the European way of life.”

He said he believed the portfolio title did not correspond to Schinas’ own values and “I think that this will have to be changed.”

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