June 24th, 2017
I grew up in the Netherlands at a different time when “Tolerance, Diversity, Justice, Freedom and Equality” were our main and accepted values, perhaps panorama’s of the past become more beautiful in time, but everything in life changes over time and the country has also changed.
To elaborate, the Netherlands with a GDP of $769 billion is a rich and civilized country and can be historically best described as a multicultural liberal society with a mature Democracy. The country has a population of 17.1 million of which 68 % is unaffiliated, 25% Christian and 6% Muslim.
The history of religion in the Netherlands is that there has always been a considerable diversity of religious thought and practice. In Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 the independence of the Netherlands was recognized and the country was known by Anglicans, Protestants and Jews for its religious tolerance. The Netherlands became a refuge for persecuted such as the Huguenots from France and Puritans from England, as well as a home for many of these migrants. During the 17th and 18th century the part of first-generation immigrants in Amsterdam was nearly 50 %. The Jews had their own laws and formed a separate society.
Given our history of tolerance, diversity, justice, freedom and equality my views what I consider a “civilized” society, which includes welcoming of refugees and freedom of movement, are diametrically opposed to the extremist opinions of Geert Wilders riding his 1930’s fascist surfboard.
Having lived through the 1960s and looking at the history of Christianity I do not share Wilders admiration for “dominance in the Judeo-Christian tradition.” There is separation of State and Church and personally I am delighted about the changes which have taken place, which have led to a much more open society and diminishing role and influence of the church.
The same can be said about our multicultural Liberal Society which has more advantages then disadvantages, despite some difficulties in the area of integration and education which must be addressed.
As to the refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria each father, mother, brother or sister in similar circumstances would attempt to bring his children, his wife, his sister or brother from a war zone to safety and is obliged to do so.
To place this in perspective, today there are 65.6 million people which have been forcibly displaced, of which 50 % are children. One third has fled abroad. Refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and South Sudan account of 17.2 million. In Syria since the war began 5.5 million have fled the country and another 6.3 million are internally displaced. From this total 12 % of Syrian refugees live and 7% of the Afghans live in the West.
Angela Merkel showed moral leadership by welcoming the refugees whereby present refugee crisis is a good example of globalizing and like Germany did we should welcome refugees in a magnanimous manner and share the burden this brings to the EU in an equal manner as our human dignity requires.
Contrary to traditional EU lately authoritarian tendencies have been emerging in Slovakia, Hungary and Poland attesting to the fact that the Central-European post-communist countries have failed in building a decent type of democracy.
These cancers of authoritarianism are fanning hatred towards refugees and minorities. This slipping into authoritarian regimes has most strongly appeared Hungary and Poland. This has led to the refusal of Czech, Hungary and Poland to take in refugees for relocation and share in the refugee burden.
The erosion of democratic values, institutionalized corruption, hatred towards refugees and human right violations raises serious questions about the wisdom of the EU Eastward expansion, the validity of their full EU membership.
The xenophobic expressions made by PM Viktor Orban in Hungary and the attacks on the Constitutional Court in Poland are worrisome. These events show the differences in culture between “traditional” Europe and “new” Europe and must be reason for self-reflection and if deemed necessary to proceed with a two-speed EU.
Instead of building walls around countries we need fewer borders and build bridges since walls only imprison us. Another reason to be open-minded is that in Europe our populations age and our demographic pyramid is changing and is rapidly inverting, all the more reason to welcome refugees who are mostly well educated and will contribute to our society in an open and positive manner.
In this climate Wilders xenophobic, anti-European views have attracted international attention, as did his recent conviction by the courts for discrimination given his hate speech and incitement at a rally in The Hague calling for “fewer Moroccan’s”.
Without question Wilders is a warning sign against the dangers of extreme right demagoguery, the epidemic rise of Nationalism is a threat to our liberal society. These forces of Nationalism which Wilders stimulates are based on hate and fear, similar to a malignant tumour, reminding us about another demagogue during Europe’s darkest past in the 1930’s.
It is like JFK said; “too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
On serious reflection the only conclusion reasonable people can reach is that Wilders his plans are discriminatory and infringe on fundamental rights, particularly his “de-Islamisation” measures such as: to close mosques in the Netherlands; to ban the Quran; to close down Islamic school; internment without trial is deeply disturbing and dangerous. These measures are together with stopping immigration from Muslim countries equally illogical given our history.
These advocated measures are a breach with freedom of education; freedom of religion; freedom of speech; the right of fair trial, equal treatment and are discriminating. All of these are fundamental human rights and have been laid down and guaranteed in the constitution.
The views of Geert Wilders are repulsive and undermine our institutions, our freedom and the rule of law. It’s not surprising that the Norwegian mass murderer Breivik referred to Wilders in his writings more than 30 times and testifies to Wilder’s popularity in extreme right and fascist circles.
It seems Wilders his small mind and spirit are so saturated by hate against Islam that the poor man his world is consisting of only intolerance and hate without being willing to distinguish between moderate and radical Islam. But Islam has many faces, just as Christianity and other religions do.
But Wilders his views are not limited to this since he also advocates Exit out of the European Union and Euro, favouring the return to the Dutch Guilder currency whereby “A key point of principle is that the Netherlands outside the euro has the freedom to adopt the policy stance it wants.” Thereby forgetting that since 1970’s the Netherlands has not have had an independent interest policy but the Dutch Guilder always was connected to the German Mark and followed the German interest policy, this with the short exception in 1983 when the Guider was devaluated with devastating results.
But both these propositions are for a country like the Netherlands and most EU countries unrealistic and dangerous and would isolate. This would have negative consequences for the economy, competition and living standards, all would deteriorate.
We live in an integrated global market in which everything is connected and controlled by the main economic power structures. Globalization and Liberal society is here to stay and has shown to reduce barriers between countries and is addressing some of the problems like unemployment and poverty. It creates growth, creates jobs and has major advantages for the developing countries and spreads prosperity.
It goes without saying his positions on “de-islamisation” and “anti-Europe” benefits him privately, financially and politically. Wilders exploits his police protection as being a victim of the same forces he purposely stimulates and at the same time profiting financial by receiving financial support out of right extreme circles in the US and Israel.
Wilders promise of a “Populist Spring” in Europe fell once again short of his own promises and expectation, similar to a balloon filled with hot air in the form of empty thoughts. Wilders usually implodes before Election Day and also the balloon sputtered and did not take off due to lack of clean oxygen, thanks to the silent majority which understands the danger of Wilders to our society.
“If it quacks, walks and talks like a fascist most likely it’s a fascist.”
Geert Wilders his supporters are mainly the plebs “uneducated and low-income” voters who only look at the outside of the balloon he has painted in bright colours and for them this looks like a pretty and shiny balloon, but like with Donald J Trump if they would take a closer look under the surface they should realize the “brown” 1930 wood is rotten to its core and cannot be trusted.
This leads to the conclusion Wilders is a destructive political and dangerous force in the Netherlands and Europe which should be taken seriously and must be resisted. PM Mark Rutte did so and stayed on course, pushed the Centre again more to the right and has moved again closer to Wilders his positions. In the process he used what he calls “good populism”, but there is no “good populism” or “good Nationalism”, they are both similar to a malignant cancer.
But using populism and nationalism is nothing new to the VVD our main Liberal party, a party which since the 1990’s under the leadership of Bolkestein could not resist the temptation to use these questionable populist methods and moved slowly away from Europe. The main reason true Liberals have left this party and moved on to D66, our Liberal pro-European party.
The result of the Dutch election of which 82 % of the electorate voted the highest turnout since 1986 shows that the right-wing bigots of Geert Wilders PVV were rejected by 87 % of the electorate and this outcome to stop populism represents the choice for reason against fear politics and insanity.
But nevertheless, Wilders who came into parliament in 2006 with his one-member PVV party, based on his hostility towards Islam, is still making gains and is having now after 10 years 13 % of the vote, which is not really a significant percentage, but still an intolerable shameful percentage of voters given the 1930’s lessons of history, a time when the “brown” and “black” shirts ruled our streets. To exclude Wilders from Government participation and support by means of a “Cordon Sanitaire” is the logical and sensible decision for now and the future.
But make no mistake this result suits Wilders since he can limit himself to opposition in parliament, not having the organization or the qualified people to participate in serious and responsible Government.
The outcome of the elections in which common sense prevailed the Netherlands was a first positive step away from the risks to the EU, but must also been seen in the light of the recent experiences made with Donald J Trump authoritarianism and PM Erdogan repression in Turkey attacking the freedom of press and the independence of the judiciary. Tragic how the Democracy in Turkey designed and developed by Atatürk is being destroyed by Erdogan.
In addition there is the Brexit insanity of Nigel Farage victimizing the younger generations who will pay the price for this.
Brexit is a rather questionable experiment, to turn back the clock with 40 years in a world which has greatly changed, which decision is already splitting the country. There are signs of economic deteriorating situation with prices rising faster than wages, a downgrading of the status of the economy and lesser value of the pound.
As Lord Heseltine said, “With Brexit Britain has lost more power and influence than in any other day of my peacetime life.”
Obviously Trump was the wake-up call for Europe and his playbook backfired, like a kiss of Death to the EU wrecking crew. The positive trend continued when In France the fascist Marine Le Pen was soundly beaten by Emmanuel Macron who embraces free market policies. This will finally lead to the reform in France of the long overdue labour-market regulations, change tax-rates and fix inequalities in the pension system, while intensify the European integration.
The expected re-election in Germany of Angela Merkel will further strengthen the German-French cooperation which will drive the integration of the European Union with new energy forward.
The results also shows that Socialism is struggling to retain its influence in Europe, the old tired ideas don’t work anymore and can be compared with old wine re-bottled in new shiny bottles but the wine is past its expiration date, not drinkable. Jeremy Corbyn is this type prehistoric political leader who is arguing to take Britain back to the Stone Age with his high taxation and pathetic dreams of nationalization.
But despite the positive results in the Netherlands and France in the fight against Nationalism and extreme right has only just started and are hopeful but not structural. These demagogues have no answers or are unable to deliver any solution for the problems we are facing, their purpose is to limit the further integration of the EU, with the primary objective is to divide and destroy the European Union.
They seek to use democracy from within and create fascism, so we must stop being political correct but call alternative facts lies and call this populism by its rightful name demagoguery or civilized fascism.
Contrary to these views the EU has brought us freedom, tolerance, solidarity, rule of law during 60 years based on these values brought us economic benefits, peace and stability and is our common future. By working economically, politically and military together we are stronger.
Since Black Friday January 20th, 2017 our political climate has been influenced by the installation of Donald J Trump as 45th President of the United States of America, someone with no legal, moral or ethical standards or standing, eminently unqualified.
With the election of Trump the US has chosen for Nationalism and Self-Isolation which has already led to increased polarization and caused a surge in racial prejudice.
During his 130+ days in office the narcissistic President called the international order into question and attacked the American system of Government, in which the courts represent the last check and balances, while at the same time Republican control over the other two branches is undermining democracy.
In his malevolent campaign against Europe Trump supported Brexit and the fascist Marine Le Pen. Her father Jean Marie Le Pen declared Hitler was elected democratically and the Holocaust was just a mere detail of history, upbringing leaves it traces. But all the cosying up to Trump didn’t help Le Pen, May or Wilders.
Trump has shown himself to be a relentless drip like water torture hollowing out the institution of the Presidency and is not only a threat to the United States of America but also a threat to the transatlantic relationship, European Union and NATO. The Alliance took decades to build and brought us peace and stability over the last 70+ years is under attack and is now being undermined.
It’s not the first time the roads of Europe and the US diverge, also under George W Bush with the Iraq war the trans-Atlantic relationship was tested, but never in a way that shared values were questioned. Today we would welcome Bush43 back to the White House!
The Trump administration is retreating from the Liberal order and there are discords in the areas of human rights, environment protection, international law, free trade, Russia and multilaterism. The Trump world is becoming similar to Vladimir Putin’s world in which there are no long-term relationships or shared value, but only interests.
Trump disbelief in science and climate change is a further sign of a limited mind or the absence thereof and with his latest initiative to withdraw from the Paris Accords the US has entered the one-way road to disaster which places the US outside the international community.
As Margaret Albright noted “Withdrawing from the Paris accords Trump has turned American leadership into a symbol of American isolation, damaging US economy and security.”
In all of this Angela Merkel has been most impressive, the calm in the eye of the Trump storm and she came given the erosion of trust to the only conclusion possible when she said “We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.”
With this statement a line in the sand has been drawn in realizing the Global order is part of the past and the future of US leadership is in question. With this we have reached a turning point which might lead to the possible severing of close US-Germany relations.
Driving a wedge into the trans-Atlantic relationship has been a supreme goal of the former Soviet Union policies since 1945 and with Trump as enabler Vladimir Putin strategy of undermining the cohesion of Western Liberal society comes in sight.
This means we as EU must strengthen and protect our Liberal society; minimize our dependence on the US, perhaps in time sanity will return and the US will be ready again for its leadership role which is required for a stable world order. But time does not wait and China and Russia are ready to take advantage and fill parts of the present void Trump has created.
We can only conclude that Donald J Trump nationalistic, protectionist policies has had a most disruptive impact on the World and together with Theresa May “Brexit=Brexit” approach this has been most helpful and done more for EU integration then the EU could do for itself.
We in Traditional Europe must use this historic opportunity to rebalance and re-invigorate EU integration and develop our own foreign policy under German-French leadership.
Today the EU cannot be reliant on the US and UK but needs to forge faster integration of the Euro zone and its institutions together with a strong EU Security and defence policy. An integrated EU with its own budget with fiscal discipline, parliament and ministerial responsibility in the area of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Defence is required.
In retro prospect perhaps President de Gaulle has been vindicated when he suggested the UK was not a natural part of Europe and vetoed in 1963 the application for UK membership of the European Union, but the times of the “Empire” are long past and gone and with Brexit Britain still seems to live in its glorious past and is standing on the sidelines, only having isolated itself. Our World has greatly changed and it is cold outside with Winter coming to the World.
We must conclude the UK membership of the EU has over the years only delayed and frustrated the development and integration of the European Union which now should be led forward with a new found dynamic.