EU lawmakers condemn Dutch party's website as 'discriminatory'

20/03/2012

The special website set up by a Dutch anti-immigration party that invites Holland's citizens to report nuisances caused by Bulgarian, Polish and Romanian workers "openly incites discrimination," the European Parliament said.

By Svetla Dimitrova and Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Sofia and Bucharest -- 20/03/12

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Protesters demonstrate against a website of the Freedom Party in The Hague on February 21st. [Reuters]

The European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on March 15th, condemning a Dutch far-right party's initiative against Bulgarian, Polish and Romanian immigrants as "discriminatory and malicious" and criticising Prime Minister Mark Rutte for tolerating it.

In early February, the Freedom Party (PVV) launched a website inviting the citizens of the Netherlands to send complaints stemming from the "massive" influx of Central and Eastern European (CEE) job seekers, particularly those from the three former communist states.

The site -- set up by Geert Wilders's anti-immigration party -- "openly incites discrimination" against EU workers and is sowing divisions within the Dutch society, MEPs stressed. They also accused the PVV of seeking to make political gains at the expense of people from CEE countries.

The document was adopted by a show of hands and was supported by representatives of all political groups in the 753-seat EU legislature.

The EP "strongly condemns the website launched by the PVV, as it goes against the fundamental European values of human dignity, freedom, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights and risks destroying the very basis of the Union, which is pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and freedom of movement," the resolution said.

While not a member of the Dutch ruling coalition, Wilders's party backs the minority government, which depends on the PVV's 25 lawmakers to secure a slim majority in the 150-seat national parliament.

The EP resolution urged the Dutch prime minister to "condemn and distance himself from this deplorable initiative." It also called on Rutte's cabinet "not to turn a blind eye" to the policies of the PVV, which run against fundamental EU values, as well as "to investigate whether this initiative has resulted in incitement to hatred and discrimination".

However, Rutte ignored call, arguing in a letter to the Dutch parliament that it reflects an individual party's stance on immigration and not the government's official position on that matter.

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Geert Wilders's anti-immigration party "openly incites discrimination" against EU workers and is sowing divisions within the Dutch society, EU parliament members say. [Reuters]

"It is for a judge to decide if a political party oversteps the law," he said.

Romanian analysts say the resolution is important but will not change much on the ground.

"It is a symbolic act, but a decision which carries significant political weight, expressing a discomfort which also impacts our efforts to join Schengen," Cristian Ghinea, director of the Romanian Center for European Policies, told SETimes.

"The EP resolution puts Holland in the defensive while it gives Romania a high moral ground. But in terms of practical effects, there is not much to be done if the Dutch government maintains its tough position," he added. "Because their opposition to Romania and Bulgaria's accession to the Schengen area is a principle position and that complicates things."

Ghinea recommends a serious dialogue on this topic between The Hague and Bucharest.

"We have to better understand Holland's motivations. We need to sit down and talk to Holland about concrete matters, such as how to make that progress they request sustainable, to plead for instance for Romania's inclusion in the next pan-European Mechanism for Co-operation and Verification which monitors the judiciary," the Romanian analyst underlined.

In the streets, Romanians look at the extremist website with disappointment.

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"One looks at the West as the source of democratic ideas. They told us and even keep telling us what discrimination is, for instance. And this is what they are doing to us right now," Andi Florescu, a 38-year-old financial controller, told SETimes.

"Accepting Romania and Bulgaria into the EU involved free movement of people and they knew that. To come up after years to whine about losing jobs because of Romanian and Bulgarian workers just for the sake of votes looks like a primitive political practice which shouldn't be condoned in nowadays Europe. All the more it is tacitly bolstered by the Dutch government," he added.

Crises create a favourable breeding ground for xenophobic attitudes, Bulgarian political analyst Evgeniy Dainov noted.

"The extremist political parties are the ones that will continue to gain more ground as long as there is a crisis of confidence in established political parties," he told SETimes. "That is why such initiatives need to be rebuffed at all possible levels, in this case at the level of EU-wide institutions. Otherwise, we will be swamped by that type of stuff."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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