Doubling down on her decision to name Margaritis Schinas the “vice president for protecting our European way of life,” European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said the EU can’t allow others “to take away our language from us.”
“We have seen foreign powers interfere in our elections from the outside,” von der Leyen wrote in an op-ed published Monday in multiple European newspapers. “And we have seen home-grown populists with cheap nationalistic slogans try to destabilize us from the inside. We should not allow these forces to hijack the definition of the European way of life. They want it to mean the opposite of what it is.”
Critics of the name of the portfolio, which includes migration in its mandate, have slammed it as a “dog-whistle” of right-wing extremists. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen endorsed the new title in a speech on Sunday, calling it an “ideological victory,” according to Reuters.
The incoming Commission president acknowledged her use of the “European way of life” phrase had sparked a debate “on the connotations and the concept of the term,” but insisted this is a good thing, concluding “it is a debate we should have in the open.”
“Of course, words matter,” she wrote. “I recognize that. For some, the European way of life is a loaded and politically charged term. But we cannot and must not let others take away our language from us: this is also part of who we are.”
She said: “We should be proud of our European way of life in all of its forms and dimensions and we should constantly preserve, protect and nurture it. This is why it was one of the six guiding principles in my Political Guidelines, which received the European Parliament’s support in July.”
And she noted that “the European way of life came at a great price and sacrifice,” adding: “It should never be taken for granted — it is neither a given nor a guarantee. The proof of that is that our way of living is being challenged every day — as much by anti-Europeans from within as from without.”