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The Von der Leyen commission: key appointments for a more assertive EU

  • September 10, 2019

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Margaritis Schinas, chief spokesman of the European Commission, gestures during a news conference at the European Commission’s Berlaymont building in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. “There is not an awful lot to say today because we don’t know what our British friends are going to do after the vote in Parliament yesterday,”  Schinas told reporters in Brussels. Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg
© Bloomberg

Margaritis Schinas, 57, vice-president, commissioner for “Protecting the European way of life”: the Greek national is a familiar face in Brussels as the commission’s former chief spokesperson, but his new job title caused immediate controversy.

Critics said the post — which will cover migration and security, as well as employment and education — echoed the rhetoric of the far-right by implying that European cultural heritage was under threat. 

Claude Moraes, a British MEP, branded the title “deeply insulting”. Andrew Stroehlein, European media director at Human Rights Watch, said it reflected the “mainstreaming of extremism”.

Ms von der Leyen’s appointment letter to Mr Schinas mentions the need for “workers . . . equipped to thrive in our evolving labour market”, as well as “well-managed legal migration, a strong focus on integration and ensuring our communities are cohesive and close-knit”. 

“The European way of life is built around solidarity, peace of mind and security,” the letter read. “We must address and allay legitimate fears and concerns about the impact of irregular migration on our economy and society.”

right - Vera Jourova
		left - didier reynders
		composite image
© AFP/Getty

Vera Jourova & Didier Reynders, commissioners for values and justice: The rule-of-law portfolio will be jointly managed by two commissioners. Vera Jourova, 55, the Czech commissioner, will be a vice-president in charge of transparency and values. Belgian Didier Reynders, 61, will be the justice commissioner. 

Ms Jourova stays on for her second term in Brussels, with her reputation burnished by her handling of EU privacy scandals and her drive for more self-regulation in the tech sector. 

Mr Reynders, a longtime Belgian politician, has enjoyed long tenures as finance minister and foreign minister. In government, Mr Reynders pioneered the idea of a peer-review system among EU countries on their respect for the rule of law — a plan that has been seized upon by Ms von der Leyen as she looks for ways to ease tensions over the issue.

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