Wilders against the Slavs

The right-wing populist’s new website invites readers to complain about eastern European migrants

Wilders against the Slavs

Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images

Geert Wilders, the flamboyant populist who built his political career out of bashing Muslims in Holland, has expanded his list of targets to include the many Central and Eastern Europeans who have moved to his country since the European Union expanded in 2004. Last week, he launched a website inviting readers to register their complaints about Slavs and all their perceived transgressions: everything from drinking too much and talking too loud to stealing jobs from native Dutch. “Do you have problems with people from Central and Eastern Europe? Have you lost your job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other Eastern European? We want to know,” the site says. So far it has generated more than 40,000 responses.

Waldemar Skrobacki, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, describes Wilders as a “holdover from the old Europe, the Europe of national hatreds that drove the continent toward so many wars.” But Wilders is not a fossilized curiosity. He’s 48 years old, articulate and telegenic. His Freedom Party also props up Holland’s governing minority coalition, consisting of the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Christian Democratic Appeal. Together, the two parties command only 52 seats out of 150 in the Dutch lower house of parliament. So Prime Minister Mark Rutte made a deal with Wilders to secure the backing of his 24 MPs—although none holds a position in government.

Rutte refuses to distance his government from Wilders’s website, lamely arguing he can’t respond to other parties’ stunts. But while he relies on Wilders to keep his government afloat, Jan Techau, director of the European centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the prime minister’s paralysis is more fundamental. “He’s fearful that he will be perceived as too soft on these issues,” says Techau. “He does not subscribe to Wilders’s politics, but at the same time he finds it difficult to stand up against it with full force. The terms of the debate have changed. When you subscribe to the classic way of doing it, of open societies and embracing others, then you run the risk of being seen as politically weak, and maybe even as the one to be blamed for all the problems we have.”

This, says Techau, is a testament to how much impact Wilders has had in Holland in the last decade. “He has managed to dominate the political debate about what’s important, and what should be on the political agenda in Holland,” Techau says. Wilders “has undermined the natural openness and the natural liberal sentiments of the Dutch. The mood has changed. Where there was openness, there is now doubt. That is his biggest political success.”

Politicians and citizens from Poland and elsewhere are predictably upset. Polish media have urged Poles to boycott Dutch products and services, and have seized on a symbol—an all-black tulip—to express their anger. Ten ambassadors from Eastern and Central Europe penned an open letter to “Dutch society and its political leaders,” lamenting Wilders’s stand and urging other politicians to oppose it. “For centuries, the Netherlands and Dutch society used to be seen in our countries as a shining light for freedom and tolerance,” they wrote. Holland’s foreign minister met with the ambassadors and repeated the government’s line that the website is solely the Freedom Party’s responsibility.

The Netherlands does have a long history of welcoming migrants, but its xenophobic shift of late has been sharp. Wilders’s Freedom Party won 15.5 per cent of the vote in the 2010 election, up from 5.9 per cent in 2006. The party had been sagging in polls recently, stung by its support for government cutbacks. Willem Maas, Jean Monnet chair at York University and the author of Creating European Citizens, suspects Wilders launched this website as diversion. It’s worked. A recent poll shows a spike in his party’s popularity, giving it a projected 24 seats were an election held today, up from a projected 20 seats prior to the website’s launch.

Under normal economic circumstances, says Techau, Dutch voters would not be so receptive to Wilders’s message. “But we’re in times of crisis, and the fear level is high. He’s playing the time card. He thinks the longer this crisis lingers, the better. And he’s probably right.”


Wilders against the Slavs

  1.  Yeah, I have a complaint – about that one Michael Ignatieff!

     Dang, did he mess up in the last election!

     And that Ed Stelmach guy – shame, shame on him!

  2. What twit wrote this? Have you ever been to Holland? Having been there many times for work I know that they face real issues. The growing problems in Holland are at this point not Armageddon type however the writing is on the wall, the denial and stupidity espoused by the author doesn’t actually deal with the problems in Holland whether real or perceived. You may not like Mr. Wilders but write or wrong he is talking about an issue facing the Dutch. Immigration is good a flood over whelms what are the Dutch facing is debatable.

    • even dutch dont take him seriously liar 

      • They take him seriously enough for his party to be the third most popular in the country… and counting.

  3. Different place, same story. Another privileged nativist ranting about immigrants stealing jobs. This kind of thing lurks under the surface in most liberal democracies and bubbles up during economically uncertain times. It’s really a type of cowardice, people like Wilders lash out at the most vulnerable in our society to stoke up the electorate. When the future is vague and uncertain you can always make yourself feel better by attacking those who have the least ability to attack in return. You know, if you’re that type of person.

  4. “who built his political career out of bashing Muslims ” while you try to build a career bashing Wilders and others. I have a new word for you to learn: Hypocrite.

  5. WHat is unstated is that the EU has free labour mobility. This would be like the WildRose getting into a coalition in Alberta and then setting up a website against the East Coasters or Ontarians coming and taking Albertans jobs. They are not migrants! They are legally allowed to come in without any restraint

  6. Who is this Michael Petrou, and what’s he doing in Macleans, besides making an ass of himself. He quotes with approval, Jan Techau, director of the European centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who said:

    “Wilders “has undermined the natural openness and the natural liberal sentiments of the Dutch…”

    No mention of sinislam, the evil melding of the loony left and mohammed’s marauders. No mention of their subjecting Wilders to TWO trials on the same trumped up charge, in front of a twisted judge, who suborned the chief defense witness. He was still exonerated, but DUTCH JUSTICE has now entered the modern lexicon for lunacy, perversity, and Political Correctness run riot.

  7. It isn’t true that Holland is no longer a welcoming country to people from other countries. However, two things have to be taken into consideration in order to understand some of Wilders’ support. The late politician Pim Fortuin reversed a trend of political correctness in Dutch politics. Nowadays politicians can, and are expected by many, to both detect and name problems in society that earlier were possibly deemed too sensitive. Wilders capitalizes on this change.
    Secondly, there actual are problems (crime, heavy drinking, people losing their jobs), with eastern European people, who have come to Holland in rather large numbers.
    Some Dutch people have very real worries, and Wilders’ website gives them a platform to voice their concers. That in itself cannot be a bad thing. Unfortunately however, a website like this easily leads people to conclude that ‘all Poles must be bad’, and that is unacceptable and this is something our Prime Minister may want to stress a little more clearly. Rather ironically by the way, Wilders ‘is married to a former diplomat of Hungarian origin’, so Wikipedia states…

  8. why would wilders hope for a longer economic crisis in the Netherlands

    • To capitalise Politically on it 

  9. Nationalism flourishes at the time of crisis they ride on fear and fear only .

    Albert Einstein- Nationalism is an infantile disease , it is the measles of mankind

  10. Wilders is one of many in the Netherlands – his movement is growing and with reason.

    His country is in real trouble and the population is starting to realize this

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