Integration and housing minister Ella Vogelaar (58) resigned on Thursday night after her Labour party leadership said it had lost confidence in her.
According to media reports, the final straw was Vogelaar’s decision not to go ahead with plans to set up a separate register listing the names of Antillean youths who are considered to be trouble-makers – a move backed by both the cabinet and Labour.
But problems have been mounting up for Vogelaar for some time. Last week she survived a vote of no-confidence over her handling of financial problems surrounding a €200m investment in a cruise ship by the Rotterdam housing corporation Woonbron.
Officially, Labour says it withdrew its support for the minister because of her failure to achieve results. But Vogelaar told a news conference she did not agree with this criticism and does not share the party leadership’s stance on a number of issues, leaving her with no option but to quit.
Vogelaar, deputy leader of the FNV trade union federation until she joined the government in January 2007, admitted she did not have a good reputation as a minister but said she would have liked to ‘finish the job’.
And she criticised Labour’s position on the question of integration, saying that the party does not have a clear standpoint that is accepted by all its members. The emphasis on ‘getting tough’ is not the answer, she said.
Immigrants should be given limits and offered perspectives, Vogelaar said. The enthusiasm surrounding Barack Obama’s election in the US shows how important it is that immigrants ‘have the feeling that they can fully participate in society,’ the Volkskrant quoted her as saying.
Last year Vogelaar provoked the anger of the right-wing by suggesting that in two hundreds years time, the Netherlands may have a Christian, Jewish and Islamic tradition. Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration PVV party described the comments as ‘raving mad’.
More recently, Vogelaar contradicted her own Labour party leader Wouter Bos when he urged politicians not to be afraid of polarisation in the debate over integration.
Commenting on the resignation, Bos said that despite all her efforts, Vogelaar ‘found herself in a situation where she was unable to give effective leadership and drive through solutions for one of the biggest questions facing Dutch society: how do we ensure that people with different cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds can live together peacefully?’
However, one of her biggest problems was her focus on 40 urban renewal areas, particularly her failure to get housing corporations to pay for the majority of the work.
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