The EU Commission has appointed former diplomat Marion Lalisse as its new coordinator for combating Islamophobia. Soros-funded NGOs and the Council of European Muslims have welcomed Lalisse’s appointment, which comes after an 18-month vacancy.
The appointment however is not without objection. The position has been the subject of ongoing criticism, voiced by MEPs last month, about the Commission’s relationship with Islamist-friendly activist groups, who are campaigning on the issue of Islamophobia.
The role involves coordinating with civil society groups and collecting hate crime data to better form a legislative response against Islamophobia at an EU level.
Lalisse is a French-born EU official with previous diplomatic experience as the EU’s deputy ambassador to Yemen who has also been a part of delegations to Ghana, Mauritania, and Morocco. She was recently involved in aid distribution to Turkish Cypriots before being appointed to the post.
The office was created in 2015 alongside a similar anti-Semitism role following the Commission’s first Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights. The post has been vacant since July 2021, following the departure of Tommaso Chiamparino.
Forty-one NGOs from across Europe signed an open letter in June 2022 bringing attention to the failure of the Commission to fill the role and to do more to combat Islamophobia. The Commission responded by saying they were experiencing hiring issues.
The coordinator is given an annual budget of €180,000 to spend on outreach initiatives and liaison with Islamic groups, according to media statements by the Commission.
The role has been criticised for lacking the funding and staff of similar bodies within the Commission, with the coordinator previously working alone. The Commission declined to specify if Lalisse would get her own team.
The appointment was welcomed by Soros-funded NGO ENAR, which called on Lalisse to lead a “holistic, comprehensive, goal-oriented and intersectional approach in countering Islamophobia.” The group also called on the newly appointed coordinator to better implement existing anti-discrimination legislation on Islamophobia. ENAR generated controversy when it was revealed its director, Michaël Privot, was a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Failure to appoint a new coordinator by the Commission was highlighted in a Euractiv article financially sponsored by the Soros-run Open Society Foundation in December 2022. The Commission has repeatedly stated its commitment to propose EU laws to criminalise what it deems to be Islamophobic speech.