The European Parliament’s president said Thursday that he will meet with incoming European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen later this month 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 many critics considering it a concession to far-right ideas.
European Parliament president David Sassoli told a news conference 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 made “remarks related to the titles of some portfolios.”
Sassoli said “maybe we showed a little lightness and we were too fast in the choice of some odd and bizarre nominations.”
Sassoli said he has invited von der Leyen to attend a meeting of the chairmen of the political groups of the European Parliament to discuss the issue on Sept. 19.
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 when she attends the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament next week.”
Asked whether the European Commission was considering a name change for the highly political portfolio, spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said “of course we are following the vibrant debate on many different issues and of course all the arguments which are being put forward” but that no quick decision would be made.
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.”
Schinas, the outgoing chief spokesman of the European Commission, was appointed by Juncker.
“Knowing Margaritis well because I was in daily contact with him, I know that the title is not corresponding to his own values,” Juncker said. “And I think that this will have to be changed.”