Sweden wants a Commissioner portfolio only dealing with human rights

Neo-Nazi MEP Udo Voigt's place on the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee has sparked international outcry. [Marek Peters/Wikimedia]

Sweden wants the next European Commission to include a commissioner whose portfolio exclusively deals with human rights. The European Parliament elections have shown that this is necessary, says Birgitta Ohlsson, Minister for European Affairs and Democracy.

“I think it’s incredibly sad that both racist, xenophobic and populist parties have become bigger in many ways around Europe. I think that we who want to protect freedom and human rights need to be better to defend this and there it would be good to have a responsible commissioner,” Ohlsson told Sweden’s Radio.

In the European Parliament elections, Udo Voigt, the former leader of the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD), who has praised Adolf Hitler and infamously claimed that “no more than 340,000 Jews” had died in the Holocaust was elected. Voigt has even become a member of the Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee.

Meanwhile, France’s far-right party National Front (NF) won 24 seats in the elections. The NF is spearheaded my Marine Le Pen, who has compared Islamic immigration in France to the Nazi occupation.

At the moment, the Commissioner for Justice deals with questions related to human rights, but since this Commissioner has many other responsibilities, Ohlsson argues for a different arrangement.

“This commissioner has everything from travel packages to criminal justice, so I think we need to earmark a person who will take responsibility to defend human rights in the EU,” Ohlsson said.

Asked whether Sweden would be interested in this kind of portfolio during the next Commission mandate, Ohlsson said, “There would be many Commissioners who would be right for this job. But there is clearly a strong need and we need a strong voice for this.”

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildtsaid that though human rights are important, he’s sceptical about the idea of Commissioner who only deals with that issue.

“It could be an advantage for this job to also deal with other questions to make it more heavy. There’s a risk that if you only have this, and the legal base for the most part is in the Council of Europe, then it will be too light. This is a question which has to be raised so that this can become an important portfolio. This can not be a portfolio without influence, and this is of course not what Ohlsson wants either,” he said.

Sweden has so far not nominated a Commissioner. Sources say that the current liberal Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who has been responsible for Home Affairs, might be able to continue, even if Sweden gets a centre-left government after the general elections in September.

The ‘Spitzenkandidat’ of the centre-right EPP group Jean-Claude Juncker has been on 15 July to lead the European Commission from 1 November, with a massive vote from MEPs.

>> Read: Parliament elects ‘politically ecumenical’ Juncker as Commission President

In consultation with the President-elect, the Council then adopts the list of the other Members of the Commission. These people are chosen on the basis of suggestions made by the Governments. The Commission is subject, as a body, to a vote of approval of the European Parliament. The College of Commissioners is then formally appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority.

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  • 14 Sept.: General elections in Sweden.

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