Pressure is mounting on prime minister Mark Rutte to make a formal statement about a website set up by the government’s alliance partner, the anti-immigration PVV, which calls on people to report complaints about central and eastern Europeans.
On Tuesday, the premier again refused to comment about the site, telling MPs during prime minister’s questions it is a matter for the PVV only.
However, pressure is mounting within and outside the Netherlands for Rutte to distance himself from the site, which places newspaper headlines such as ‘Eastern Europeans, increasingly criminal’ alongside a complaints hotline.
The PVV says the aim of the site is to gain insight into ‘problems caused by central and eastern Europeans in terms of crime, alcoholism, drugs use, dumping household waste and prostitution’.
According to the Volkskrant on Tuesday, Martin Schulz, chairman of the European parliament, is to speak to PVV leader Geert Wilders about the website and the parliament is looking into its legality.
On Friday, European commissioner Viviane Reding described the site as an ‘open call to intolerance’, a statement which led Wilders to comment ‘Brussels can get stuffed’.
European MPs, including Hans van Baalen, leader of the Dutch VVD liberal grouping, have also called on Rutte to speak out. The site is ‘vulgar’ and ‘sick-making’, Van Baalen said.
The ambassadors of 10 central and eastern European countries have written to the Dutch parliament, stating the website is ‘unacceptable’. Wilders described their letter as a ‘waste of paper’.
Christian Democrat MPs, who form a minority government with Rutte’s VVD, have also urged the prime minister to react, and employers’ leader Bernard Wientjes said the prime minister should distance himself from the website.
In the meantime, the PVV claims the site has attracted over 30,000 complaints. However, thousands of those are expected to be spoof or repeat entries – the website allows people to complain as much as they like.
The Netherlands has a population of some 125,000 people from central and eastern Europe, some 80% of whom come from Poland. Most have seasonal jobs in the farming and market gardening sectors. Romanians and Bulgarians are not allowed to work in the Netherlands without a work permit, even though both countries are members of the EU.
Last year, local and national politicians called for action to curb the ‘tsunami’ of Polish and other Eastern European workers in some parts of the country following complaints about overcrowded hostels, public drunkenness and exploitation by fraudulent staffing agencies.
Social affairs minister Henk Kamp even called for jobless Poles to be deported, even though this is impossible under EU rules.
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Dear Dutch people
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