EU condemns Dutch site criticising migrant behaviour
A CONTROVERSIAL website launched last week by Geert Wilders’s right-wing Freedom Party (PVV), inviting complaints about Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants in the Netherlands, has been attacked by the EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding as “an open call to intolerance”.
In a scathing weekend statement brought forward in response to a growing political row in the Netherlands, the commissioner said: “In Europe we support freedom. We solve our problems by showing more solidarity, not by telling tales on fellow citizens.”
Dr Reding – whose outright condemnation came in stark contrast to the refusal by prime minister Mark Rutte to comment on the site – added that Brussels supported the principle of “an open continent where citizens can move, work and study where they will”.
The forthright criticism by the commissioner prompted an equally blunt response last night from Mr Wilders.
“Europe can get stuffed. We’ve had more than 32,000 complaints. This website has really hit the mark. We’re looking for facts – so talk about discrimination is fantasy and nonsense.”
The PVV site was launched in a blaze of publicity last Wednesday, asking visitors, “Are they causing you problems? Did you lose your job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other central or east European? We want to know?”
It asked potential complainants to specify instances where immigrants had been involved in “crime, alcoholism, drug abuse, dumping household waste and prostitution”. Within 24 hours, more than 14,000 complaints had been logged on the site.
The website has already been criticised by the Polish embassy in The Hague, Romania’s department of foreign affairs, the Dutch employers’ organisation and trade unions, including the Polish trade union in the Netherlands which said it intentionally fostered “a climate of distrust”.
Romania called on the Dutch authorities to have the site taken down, saying it “violated European norms”.
The Polish embassy said that Mr Wilders’s depiction of hardworking Polish workers as “polluting the Dutch jobs market” was insulting.
Bernard Wientjes, leader of the Dutch employers’ organisation VNO-NCW, called a press conference specially to advise the Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition government to “distance itself” from the website, which he described as “a form of demonisation”.
Mr Wientjes added: “This climate contributes to a wholly irrational fear of foreigners – which is not what we should have in this open country of ours.”
A number of complaints have been lodged with the ombudsman’s office, but a spokesman said the actions of political parties did not come within its realm of responsibility.
The row over the website has been embarrassing for Mr Rutte and his minority coalition government, whose tough financial reforms are supported by the PVV in return for a harder line on immigration and policing.
Mr Rutte was branded “a coward” by MP Gerard Schouw of the centre-left party D66 when he was asked to condemn the site but could manage only: “We work well with the PVV, but not on European affairs.”
Noting that social affairs minister Henk Kamp had also refused to condemn the site, Mr Schouw said the row had the potential to damage the government and the image of the Netherlands abroad.