Ambassadors seek removal of anti-immigrant Dutch website

Wed, Feb 15, 2012, 00:00

AMBASSADORS from 10 central and eastern European countries have written to the Dutch parliament demanding the removal of a website launched a week ago by Geert Wilders’s right-wing Freedom Party (PVV). The website invites complaints about Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants.

The European Parliament is examining the legality of the website. President of the parliament Martin Schultz is expected to speak to Mr Wilders, reiterating the view of EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding that the site is “an open call to intolerance”.

The website, which has received more than 32,000 complaints about immigrants in less than a week, has caused a bitter political row in the Netherlands.

Mr Wilders has pointed to its popularity, while employers, trade unions and politicians of most parties have condemned it as inflammatory.

Having responded to Ms Reding’s criticism at the weekend with an uncompromising “Europe can get stuffed”, the PVV leader was similarly combative yesterday.

Mr Wilders described the ambassadors’ open letter, which was sent to each Dutch party leader individually, as “a waste of paper”.

He said the aim of the website was not to focus on particular countries or nationalities, but to collect information about the “public nuisance and pressure on jobs” being caused by immigration. He said the results would be collated and handed to Dutch social affairs minister Hans Kamp.

Apart from its international ramifications, the row has been damaging domestically for the minority coalition government.

It is regarded as being unwilling to condemn the website because the PVV supports government policy on budget cuts in return for a hard line on immigration.

The row has been particularly damaging for Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who again at question time in parliament yesterday refused to condemn the website. Despite the EU criticism of the site, he said only that the internal workings of other political parties were not a matter on which he should comment.

That has not been enough, however, to ease the pressure. Mr Rutte has already been branded “a coward” by one opposition MP.

The criticism yesterday came from within his own party when MEP Hans van Baalen, leader of the liberal grouping in the European Parliament, called on Mr Rutte to “speak out”, describing the PVV website as “vulgar” and “sick-making”.

A poll by one news website yesterday showed that 69.4 per cent of respondents believed Mr Rutte should “take a stand”, while only 10.5 per cent accepted his contention that this was a matter confined to the PVV.

At the same time, there has been some humour. The PVV website has prompted a series of spoof sites, one of which invites visitors to log complaints against natives of the southern province of Limburg – where Mr Wilders was born.

The Netherlands is home to about 125,000 immigrants from central and eastern Europe, about 80 per cent of whom are Poles, and most of whom work in farming and market gardening.

Romanians and Bulgarians still require work permits, despite being EU citizens.