Athens greeted the news that outgoing Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos had, as expected, clinched the migration and home affairs portfolio on the new European Commission and that former New Democracy MEP Margaritis Schinas was named the European Union executive’s chief spokesman with satisfaction on Wednesday.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said it was an “exceptional honor for Greece and an important sign of the trust in our country” from the recently appointed Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that Avramopoulos was given such a high-profile post. “This is an entirely new portfolio that has been created from scratch in order to underline the need for European immigration policies to receive top priority,” added the Greek premier, who referred to Juncker as a friend.
Avramopoulos will take on a range of duties in his new role. These include molding immigration police, looking after the Common European Asylum System, overseeing the operation of the EU border agency (Frontex), coordinating policing and monitoring crisis and anti-terrorism strategies.
“We need a new policy on migration that will address skill shortages and the demographic challenges the EU faces and that will modernize the way the EU addresses these challenges,” Juncker explained in a mission letter to Avramopoulos.
“The other priority of your portfolio will be to help the member states to manage and secure Europe’s borders,” said the Commission president. “The Common Asylum EU framework needs to be fully applied and operational. We also need to step up the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism.”
Sources close to Avramopoulos described his portfolio as “highly important in a geopolitical environment that is constantly changing and with EU citizens feeling like never before the need to be safe.”
The government was also pleased by Juncker’s decision to appoint Schinas to such a significant position. Samaras described Schinas, who had served as the head of the EU Task Force for Greece since May 2013, as “worthy and experienced.” The 52-year-old served in the past as the head of political planning in the office of former European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Juncker’s team of 28 commissioners, plus seven vice presidents without specific portfolios, must be approved by the European Parliament before taking up its duties on November 1.