Controversy: Anti-immigrant website shames Netherlands

14 February 2012
NRC Handelsblad Amsterdam

"Wouldn't it be better if you left?" An anti-immigrant press article used by Geert Wilders' PVV.
"Wouldn't it be better if you left?" An anti-immigrant press article used by Geert Wilders' PVV.

Air your grievances against Eastern European workers: the new website set up by Geert Wilders’ party has shocked several EU countries. When will the PM Mark Rutte, currently dependent on the PVV’s support, condemn such a provocative move? asks NRC Handelsblad.

Passive support from the [right-extremist] Party for Freedom (PVV) – sometimes you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. Once again, the minority VVD/CDA government [Liberal and Christian-Democrat] is faced with the unsavoury consequences of the PVV's helping hand.

In the near future, the political parties in the Dutch Lower House will receive an angry letter from ten ambassadors from Central and Eastern Europe countries: Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania.

The bone of contention is the new PVV hotline, on which Dutch citizens can complain about annoyances encountered in their country from Romanians, Bulgarians and others coming from Central and Eastern Europe. These are states that have been members of the EU since 2004 or 2007 and whose residents, in part, have the right to live and work elsewhere in the union. Just like the Dutch, who have shifted their economic activities to, for instance, Poland.

Rutte has displayed a lack of courage

This is a useless initiative. But it should come as no surprise from a party that expresses xenophobic opinions. No one disputes the fact that the migration of Central and Eastern Europeans creates difficulties. And everyone knows that to deny such an idea is counterproductive. The problem, therefore, will have to be effectively addressed.

The PVV’s contemptuous behaviour hardly contributes to the debate and is reprehensible. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Rutte has displayed a lack of courage. Last week in the Lower House, he said that he would not comment on “the detailed positions taken by specific parties”. On February 13th, he expressed the same opinion.

Of course, the prime minister does not need to respond to everything the PVV says or does – it’s preferable not to. However, there are situations, such as now with the hotline site, when the government just cannot maintain such a lethargic position. For instance, when Dutch interests abroad are at stake.

A clear standpoint should be expected

The fourth government led by Balkenende (Balkenende IV) recognised this when it clearly distanced itself from Fitna [in 2008], the film made by PVV leader Wilders that insulted Islam. At the time, Maxime Verhagen, the then minister of Foreign Affairs and now deputy prime minister, made it known that “Fitna in no way whatsoever reflects the view of the Dutch government”.

Writing in the Arabic language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat he argued that – “It is the responsibility of everyone to show respect for other people's rights and reputation.” Wise words, which today would have been be appropriate for the PVV’s discriminatory website, certainly now when the party is sometimes seen as being more or less part of the government.

Now that other member states of the EU are demanding clarification from the Netherlands, Rutte cannot continue to shelter behind this formal approach. A clear standpoint should be expected from the Dutch government. This would not require that much courage.

Translated from the Dutch by Stuart Buck

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