Dutch PM to defy Strasbourg summons


DUTCH PRIME minister Mark Rutte is expected not to attend a special debate at the European Parliament today to discuss why he and his coalition government have failed to condemn or take action against an anti-immigrant website run by the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV).

Despite being personally summoned to Strasbourg to “explain the position of his government”, sources indicated last night that Mr Rutte was “too busy” to attend because of austerity talks between the coalition parties and PVV leader Geert Wilders, aimed at finding €9 billion in budget cuts.

They added that Mr Rutte did not regard the debate as urgent, saying he had already explained his position to the president of the parliament, Martin Schultz, at a brief meeting on the fringes of an EU summit earlier this month – specifically that the website was a matter for the PVV not his cabinet.

However, after his meeting with Mr Rutte, Mr Schultz was scathing: “In the Netherlands, Mark Rutte can’t survive without Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party. But in Europe he says he has nothing to do with Wilders. He cannot maintain that position – it is simply unacceptable.”

In the Netherlands, political commentators were equally critical. One said Mr Rutte was regarded in Europe as “lacking in nerve and tact”, while another maintained he would be missing a valuable opportunity today to rebuild bridges with the 10 central and eastern European countries, particularly Poland and Romania, which want the site taken down.

In Strasbourg yesterday, drafts were circulating of a resolution condemning the site, though there were differences of opinion over whether it should be directed at Mr Rutte and the Dutch government, thus letting Mr Wilders off the hook – or at Mr Wilders and the PVV.

It is understood the resolution will contend that the site is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – and should be seen in the context of European Council decisions on “combating certain forms of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law”.

One draft said the site was contrary to “fundamental European values of human dignity, freedom, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights” – and accused Mr Wilders and the PVV of launching it with the aim of “creating divisions in society and obtaining political gains to the detriment of workers from central and eastern Europe.”