Saturday 11 July 2020

Rutte says foreign minister can stay in job despite controversial comments

Foreign minister Stef Blok can continue in the job, despite his controversial comments about migration and multicultural communities, prime minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.

‘If you make a mistake, then you have to correct it, and that is what he has done,’ Rutte said after his weekly press conference.

Blok has had contact with his Polish and Czech counterparts to explain some of his comments and this is enough for him to continue his job, Rutte said.

‘If you make a mistake and your correct it, that is valued,’ he said. ‘And that does not get in the way of effective foreign policy.’

In  his comments, made to a closed meeting of Dutch workers at international organisations, Blok suggested that black people in Eastern Europe were constantly beaten up.

Apology

On Thursday Blok described his comments as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘careless’ in a note to Labour MPs who had called for an explanation.

‘I should not have done this, certainly not in my role as foreign affairs minister,’ he said. ‘I am sorry… My words were in no way meant to give racism free rein or to exclude certain population groups.

On Thursday, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver called on Mark Rutte to distance himself from Blok’s comments, saying it is incomprehensible that the prime minister has not yet done so.

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