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|EU to appoint human rights commissioner|
|A powerful new European commissioner for human rights who is expected to push for new protection for asylum seekers and workers is set to be appointed later this year.
By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor
The new commissioner for fundamental rights and social rights is expected to put pressure on Britain to accept more asylum seekers from across Europe. Several Mediterranean countries claim they are being put under undue strain from the increasing numbers of migrants arriving from Africa on their shores.
Pressure groups also warn that the commissioner is likely to push for an end to Britain’s opt-out from the working-time directive which limits the maximum working week to 48 hours.
The establishment of the powerful new role is a centrepiece of the re-election campaign of Jose Manuel Barroso as president of the European Commission. It will put human rights on the same footing as trade, competition and agriculture within the Commission.
Mr Barroso, who is expected to be re-elected on Wednesday, pledged to increase the human rights role of the EU to win the backing of liberal and socialist parties across Europe.
Europe’s previous involvement in the rights of asylum seekers and workers has proved controversial in Britain. It is blamed for controversial legal decisions which have protected the rights of foreign criminals. Business leaders also complain that laws from Brussels have stifled enterprise by imposing unnecessary red tape on employers.
The appointment of the new commissioner is also likely to add pressure on the Conservatives to fundamentally renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Europe if David Cameron is elected Prime Minister. A poll for today’s Daily Telegraph has found that a majority of Britons want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty – even if the new constitution has already been introduced.
The Conservatives have pledged to remove Britain from the European charter of human rights. Although the role of the new Commissioner has not been defined, it is expected to lead to greater European intervention.
Last night, Mark Francois, the shadow Europe minister, said that he was “sceptical” over the latest post. “I am pretty sceptical about this decision,” he said. “Europe already has a human rights body – the Council of Europe – and it generally does a good job. There is a risk that the European Commission will simply end up wasting money copying what is already being done elsewhere.”
A spokesman for Open Europe, a think tank set up by leading British businessmen, said it was concerned by the likely appointment. “This new post was proposed by Barroso to buy off the socialists which gives you some indication of what is to come,” he said.
“In the past, when the EU has tried to legislate in this area it hasn’t turned out well, the working time directive being the most conspicuous example.”
Source/© The Telegraph, London/UK