Published: 21 February 2012
By Aidan White
The latest stunt by Dutch right-wing populist Gert Wilders has sparked a new row over hate-speech in Europe and exposed a weakness bordering upon cowardice in government of the Netherlands. The anti-migrant Freedom Party (PVV) led by Wilders has launched a web-site inviting people to “shop a migrant” by lodging complaints over people from East Europe in the country.
The European Union immediately condemned the site as a platform for intolerance. It asks people to enter their personal details anonymously and then to identify the problems – such as drunkenness, double parking and noise pollution – that they have with migrants.
The European Parliament has responded with a call for a debate in March over the site which many say is incitement to race hatred and ambassadors from 10 countries have urged the Dutch government to take action.
But worryingly there is no condemnation in Dutch government circles where the Prime Minister Mark Rutte has refused to comment saying last week that the work of individual political parties is not his business.
This feeble response is a fresh example of how some mainstream politicians in Europe are increasingly nervous about standing up to racist parties, particularly when they rely on their votes in parliament in support of unpopular austerity measures.
Shortly Rutte will be attempting to win parliamentary backing for 24bn Euro (£20bn; $32bn) worth of budget cuts and he will rely on Wilders' support to get the measures through.
The media-savvy Wilders is a master of manipulation of legal and political opportunities to spread his hate messages to the embarrassment of more democratic and traditional parties. Last year, he was acquitted over hate speech in a case over the controversial anti-Islam movie Fitna, which compared Islam to fascism and called for a ban of the Koran.
Like all populist players on the extreme right he taps into community uncertainty in hard times by blaming migrants, often the most vulnerable groups in society, for economic and social decline. But in the Netherlands as elsewhere the statistics don’t stack up for the racists who seek to make migrants scapegoats for unemployment and social problems.
Wilders helps drive negative media coverage of migrants and particularly those from Poland, the largest community in the migrant labour market, even though figures show that far from stealing jobs, they are the people who do the work that local people don’t want.
Business leaders in the Netherlands say the government should take a hard line against the site warning that it can damage trade and economic relations with East European countries which are vital to the Dutch economy. The head of the Netherlands Confederation of Industry and Employers says the government should speak out and with more than 3,000 complaints already registered against the web-site there is powerful evidence that such a move would win public support.