On 13 March, MEPs in the Strasbourg plenary session slammed the highly controversial website launched by the far-right Freedom Party (PVV) of Gert Wilders for reporting immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in the Netherlands.
On behalf of the European Commission, Justice and Citizenship Commissioner Viviane Reding condemned the PVV initiative as being contrary to the legacy of European integrations and basic values of the EU, as well as an infringement of elementary freedoms granted by positive European legislation to all EU citizens.
She welcomed the decision of all major European political parties and Groups in the European Parliament to raise their voices, saying that it is “unacceptable that EU citizens are targeted” as they “should feel at home no matter where they move within the EU”.
Reding urged Dutch authorities to assess lawfulness of the website from different angles including the EU framework decision against xenophobia and racism, where national courts should judge on legality. She stressed that national laws on hate speech, data protection directive and free movement directive should be consulted looking into legality of the initiative.
Chairman of the largest group in the Parliament – the European People’s Party – Joseph Daul demanded that the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte distance himself from the PVV website. He stressed that CEE workers contribute to EU and member states’ economies throughout the Union, reiterating that the single market applied “not only to goods and services, but to workers as well”.
Daul highlighted the problem of racism and discrimination and criticised the Dutch prime minister for not taking part in the debate, urging him to immediately condemn the website.
Socialists and Democrats Chairman Hannes Swoboda linked the anti-immigrant initiative with the recent opposition of the Netherlands to Schengen accession of Bulgaria and Romania and slammed nationalists for abusing unemployment and poverty to spread hatred against immigrants.
Swoboda agreed with his EPP colleague that the EU should be home to all of its citizens and that they should all be able to exercise the same rights.
Liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt said that the real reason for this populistic xenophobic initiative lays within lost of support and seven seats that PVV suffered recently. He also agreed with Daul that government’s silence is unacceptable, saying that he personally spoke to Rutte and urged Daul to do the same with chairman of the Dutch party from his group – CDA – which takes part in the Dutch government.
Verhofstadt stressed that recent rise of populism in Europe was a dangerous trend and underlined the initiative of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy to restrict the freedom of movement of immigrants and potentially withdraw his country from the Schengen agreement.
Polish EPP deputy Jacek Saryusz-Wolski slammed PVV website, citing statistical data which show the obvious economic benefit that the Netherlands received from migrant workers, both in terms of net fiscal contribution and in employment.