Prime minister Mark Rutte on Monday again refused to comment on a website set up by the government’s alliance partner PVV calling for people to report problems caused by central and eastern Europeans.
Speaking during a visit to Brabant, Rutte said the website, set up by the anti-immigration party, is nothing to do with the government. The PVV supports the minority cabinet on economic policy in return for tougher laws on immigration.
I do not think it will affect the Netherlands’ reputation abroad, the prime minister said. ‘I will calmly explain it is a website set up by one political party, not the Dutch cabinet,’ Rutte told Nos radio. ‘It is not up to me to react to everything the PVV says.’
Nevertheless, pressure is mounting on the prime minister to distance himself from the website which asks: ‘Do you have problems with people from central and eastern Europe? Have you lost your job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other eastern European? We want to know.’
Deputy prime minister and acting Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen reiterated the prime minister’s position when questioned by RTL 7 but continued: ‘As a cabinet, we support the free movement of workers and eastern Europeans have made a large contribution to our economy.’
‘But we do not close our eyes to the problems: unfair competition, fraudulent staffing agencies, exploitation, public nuisance,’ Verhagen said.
Earlier, CDA MPs called on Rutte to distance himself from the website. While every political party is free to set up a hotline, Rutte ‘could be a little more decisive about what the cabinet actually thinks’, MP Eddy van Hijum said. Labour and GroenLinks MPs have also condemned the initiative.
Ambassadors from 10 central and eastern European countries have written to the leaders of all the Netherlands political parties, urging them to speak out against the website.
Employers’ leader Bernard Wientjes and European commissioner Viviane Reding have also condemned the website. Reding said the website is ‘an open call to intolerance’.
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