In the Netherlands a website by the Freedom Party (PVV) invites Dutch nationals to anonymously share their negative encounters with Central and Eastern Europeans living in the country. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
“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.”
Categories include drunkenness, double parking and noise pollution.
The “shop a migrant site” has already generated more than 40,000 responses and the Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders said the figures demonstrate the demand for such an outlet for voters to voice their concerns.
The Freedom Party said the results of its efforts would be presented to the Dutch social welfare minister, adding that it would ask for an adequate response from the government.
The populist Freedom Party has immediately been condemned by the European Commission for presenting a platform for such intolerance, and a special debate should take place in March at the European Parliament in order to examine concerns about the site’s contravention of democratic principles.
“I am angered that anyone could attack fellow Europeans,” says Joseph Daul, leader of the European Peoples’ Party.
“It is against all European and indeed human values to attack a group of people in this way. It is reckless to encourage hate and discrimination.”
Mr Wilders dismissed the international condemnation by telling Brussels to “get stuffed”. He added : “They should mind their own business. We are a sovereign country, we are a democratic political party and we voice the concerns of many Dutch.”
‘Not stealing jobs’
However support for Mr Wilders has been decreasing.
Professor of sociology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam Godfried Engbersen says the Freedom Party is now targeting the Eastern European because it needs new scapegoats.
“Wilders is getting wilder, that is a fact. They say: ‘Look, people from Poland are taking your jobs.’ But according to our research, that is not true.
“The Poles are doing the jobs that the Dutch people don’t want to do themselves. So they are not stealing jobs at all, but Mr Wilders needs to unite the people and he is using hate and fear to do that to try and boost his own political support.”
There are about 300,000 workers from Central and Eastern Europe currently based in the Netherlands, four out of five of them Polish, according to the national statistics bureau.
That compares to an estimated 168,000 first generation migrants from Morocco and 197,000 from Turkey.
The site’s potential to tarnish the country’s international reputation worries Dutch business leaders.
According to Bernard Wientjes, the chairman of the Netherlands Confederation of Industry and Employers, the government should distance itself from the website.
“This is a moment of xenophobia, for our own sake we have to do something to stop it. The backbone of our country is international trade. Eastern Europe is extremely important for the Netherlands.
“We export more to Poland than to Russia, China and India. We are far and away the biggest investor in Romania. The success of our economy is so related to those countries, we are so profitable because of those countries that we cannot afford to behave like this.”
The website has already generated more than 3,000 complaints, and the Dutch government has been urged to take action by ambassadors from 10 countries.
However the country’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte has refused to comment so far.
Last week he said the work of individual political parties wasn’t any of his business.
In a couple of weeks Mr Rutte will try to obtain parliamentary backing for 24bn euros ($32bn) worth of budget cuts, and he is relying of Mr Wilders’ support to win.
According to parliamentary insiders the prime minister is afraid that openly condemning the PVV website would make him lose the party’s support, a loss that could bring down the government.
D66 parliamentarian Gerard Schouw said he was disappointed by the prime minister’s “cowardliness”.
“You have to stand for your democratic principles and he didn’t. I told Mark Rutte: You must draw your red line and tell the people who are worried about this website campaign ‘I don’t want that in my country.’
“He looks scared because he is not standing up to the PVV. I think he underestimated how much it would outrage people and the effect it would have in Europe and now he is refusing to back down,” Mr Schouw says.
Joseph Daul, leader of the European Peoples’ Party, also backs the calls for the Dutch prime minister to do something.
“We call on Mark Rutte to come before the European Parliament and explain his deafening silence,” said Mr Daul.
The debate within the European Parliament will also be about the Dutch PM’s role.