The PVV’s website for registering complaints about central and eastern Europeans is stigmatising but not discriminatory, says national anti discrimination bureau association LBA.
‘This week the PVV launched www.meldpuntmiddenenoosteuropeanen.nl where people can report problems with immigrants from the so-called MOE countries (EU countries in central and eastern Europe, like Poland, Bulgaria and Rumania).
This website immediately lead to a media uproar. The Polish embassy vented its anger on the NOS news bulletin and many citizens made their thoughts known on the website of the anti discrimination bureau Hollands Midden and Haaglanden, saying that in their opinion the site is discriminatory. The Polish embassy also filed a complaint with the bureau which received hundreds of complaints nationally within days of the PVV site’s launch.
It is understandable that people think the site is discriminatory. The wording and the presentation, using newspaper clippings about problems with people from MOE countries is suggestive and tendentious to say the least. However, it is doubtful that this constitutes discrimination as defined in the penal code. The LBA does not think this is the case here.
Article 137c of the penal code prohibits the discrimination – on the grounds of race among other things – of a population group. The website talks of ‘MOE-landers’(MOE people) and ‘Central and Eastern Europeans’. Some nationalities are mentioned by name. These names refer to background and/or nationality and/or ethnicity. The site can therefore be said to single out a population group.
Under the law a statement is deemed to be insulting if it is hurtful or wounding and is prejudicial to the honour and good name of the population group in question. It is doubtful that this is what the PVV site is guilty of. The site states that there are problems caused by immigrants, ‘MOE-landers’ who come to the Netherlands to work. There are no concrete or generic statements concerning the people from these countries that might be considered an insult on the grounds of race.
The site refers to problems that are, to some extent, real. The wording is not very subtle but quite probably not disproportional in relation to the actual problems. Moreover, the website, set up by a political party with a political end (to gather up information to present to the minister) can be regarded as a contribution to a political or public debate. In the light of the relevant jurisprudence there is more scope for comments such as these that could be regarded as insulting to a population group. Article 137c therefore does not apply.
Article 137d of the penal code prohibits incitement to hatred. This article does not apply either. Although the website suggests that ‘MOE-landers’ cause problems, the only action the website advocates is to report these problems on the site. The contents of the site does not incite discrimination.
The LBA therefore is not considering legal action although it considers the website a less than admirable initiative. Problems should be recognised and tackled, regardless of nationality or ethnicity. To set up a website in order to report problems with a specific population group is divisive. Fortunately society is proving to be resilient: a number of spoof websites have been created since, parodying the PVV initiative. It may be that these will prove to be more effective than legal action in showing that the Netherlands can do without this sort of thing.’