Government starts Polish charm offensive

The Netherlands has begun a charm offensive to try to restore damage done to the country’s reputation in Poland by Geert Wilder’s website to collect complaints about Poles and eastern Europeans, the Volkskrant reports on Thursday.


The paper says immigration minister Gerd Leers went to Warsaw on Wednesday evening to explain that Wilders does not speak on behalf of the Netherlands. Leers will also meet Polish ministers on Thursday.
‘I am not going cap in hand. I am speaking as an equal,’ Leers told the paper before his departure. The talks will focus on ‘discussing the background to the problems and how we can solve them,’ Leers said.
Complaints
The website has already been condemned by European commissioners, MEPs, employers’ leaders, ambassadors and migrant labour groups.
It places newspaper headlines such as ‘Eastern Europeans, increasingly criminal’ alongside a complaints hotline.
The PVV says the aim is to gain insight into ‘problems caused by central and eastern Europeans in terms of crime, alcoholism, drugs use, dumping household waste and prostitution’.
Distance
Prime minister Mark Rutte is due to discuss the website with Martin Schulz, leader of the European Parliament later on Thursday. Schulz wants Rutte to publicly distance himself from the website, which Rutte has consistently refused to do. He argues the site is a matter for the PVV alone.
The PVV, while not officially part of the government, has a formal alliance with the minority cabinet and will soon take part in talks on making new spending cuts
Dutch firms doing business in Poland have warned the trading relationship could be seriously damaged unless the government takes action. Nevertheless, calls for a boycott of Dutch products have fallen largely on deaf ears and there has only been limited public anger about the website, the Volkskrant states.