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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
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(PPC) 2024 General Election

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The Netherlands to Opt Out of EU Asylum Rules Under Wilders' Strict New Policy

The Netherlands to Opt Out of EU Asylum Rules Under Wilders’ Strict New Policy

Toughest Ever Asylum Regime Planned

The newly formed Dutch coalition government has announced plans to implement the “strictest-ever” asylum policy in the country, following the election victory of Geert Wilders and his far-right PVV party. The coalition agreement, reached after six months of gruelling negotiations, outlines their intention to file a request with the European Commission for an opt-out on European asylum policy “as soon as possible.”

Under the proposed measures, individuals without a valid residence permit will face deportation “by force if necessary.” The 26-page coalition pact highlights the aim for “the strictest ever entry rules for asylum and the most comprehensive ever package to control migration.”

Clash with Brussels Looming

This hardline stance on asylum seekers is set to put the new Dutch government on a collision course with leaders in Brussels, even before it has officially taken office. A European Commission spokesman appeared sceptical about the possibility of an opt-out, stating, “You cannot opt out of EU legislation… We are working on the basis of existing treaties and existing legislation.”

However, the spokesman, Eric Mamer, added, “We will wait to see what a possible new Dutch government will formally propose.”

Controversial Proposals

The coalition agreement also includes plans to curb labour migration and implement stricter admittance requirements for foreign students at Dutch universities. Workers from outside the EU who lack specific knowledge or expertise would need a work permit, and recruiting agencies would face tighter regulation.

Furthermore, the coalition has expressed its intention to limit free movement for people from countries joining the EU in the future, a move likely to raise eyebrows across the bloc.

Public Support and Opposition

A poll conducted by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, involving 27,000 participants, found that Wilders’ new coalition was being warmly welcomed by many. Comments included “finally, common sense,” “enough with the extreme left fantasy reality,” and “we have been tolerant far too long to those who are not tolerant!”

However, opposition voices have also emerged. Frans Timmermans, the leader of the Greens-Left alliance, expressed concern, stating, “It’s a worrisome day. We now have a radical right-wing party under Wilders that finds itself at the centre of power in the Netherlands.”

Potential Economic Impact

The proposed immigration measures have raised concerns within the Dutch tech industry. The association FME, representing firms like semiconductor giant ASML, warned that such policies could make it difficult for tech companies to hire the workers they need.

Migration Figures

According to the latest figures, the Netherlands saw over 403,000 immigrants arrive in the country in 2022, while 179,000 emigrated – a net migration of 223,000. This marked a sharp rise from 2021 and the highest rate on record. The majority of 2022 migrants to the country came from other European nations (around 257,000 people), while the second-largest share (around 70,000) was from Asia. The figures show that 25,000 people came from Africa in 2022.

Foreign Policy and Defence Commitments

On foreign policy matters, the coalition parties have committed to keeping the Netherlands as a “constructive partner” in the EU and supporting Ukraine “politically, militarily, financially, and morally.” They have also pledged to make it legally binding to spend at least 2 percent of the Dutch gross domestic product on defence, in line with NATO agreements.

Controversial Jerusalem Embassy Move

One of the more controversial proposals in the coalition agreement is the plan to examine the possibility of moving the Dutch embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The agreement states, “Taking into account solutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and diplomatic interests, we will examine when the embassy can be moved to Jerusalem at an appropriate time.”

Wilders acknowledged that this move would take time, stating, “We are making a survey, so it’s not going to happen tomorrow… but I hope it will not be in a few years’ time either.”

Climate Change and Energy Policies

On the issue of climate change, the coalition has stated that it will adhere to internationally agreed goals but will not impose any additional national restrictions on planet-warming emissions. Offshore gas production in the North Sea would be increased, while the government plans to proceed with the construction of four nuclear reactors in the coming decade.

Spending Cuts and Financing

To finance their plans, the coalition has proposed 14 billion euros in spending cuts through 2028. These cuts include 2.5 billion euros in development aid, 1 billion euros on government salaries, and 100 million euros from the public broadcaster’s budget.

Coalition Makeup and Leadership

The new coalition brings together Wilders’ PVV, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right VVD, the new NSC party, and the farmers’ protest party BBB. Together, they hold a strong majority of 88 seats in the 150-seat Lower House.

While the broad agreement has been reached, an independent intermediary, civil servant Richard van Zwol, has been appointed as the “formateur” to oversee the formation of the cabinet of ministers, a process expected to take at least another month.

The main contender for the role of Prime Minister appears to be former education and interior minister Ronald Plasterk, who played a key role in overseeing the initial talks.

Wilders’ Ambitions

Wilders himself has reluctantly agreed to give up his dream of becoming Prime Minister, amid widespread unease over his anti-Islam and anti-European views. However, since the election, support for the PVV and Wilders has only increased, according to surveys, as voters voice frustration at the slow pace of talks.

In a post earlier this year, Wilders declared, “Do not forget: I will become Prime Minister of the Netherlands one day. With the support of even more Dutch. If not tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow. Because the voices of millions of Dutch will be heard!”

Backlash and Concerns

The rise of the far-right in the Netherlands has sparked backlash and concerns across the political spectrum. Wilders’ anti-Islam and anti-European rhetoric has been a source of controversy, and his party’s inclusion in the coalition has raised alarm bells among those concerned about the erosion of democratic values and human rights.

Critics argue that the proposed asylum policies are draconian and violate international human rights conventions, potentially setting a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow. There are also concerns that the coalition’s hardline stance on immigration could exacerbate social tensions and fuel further polarisation within Dutch society.

A Delicate Balancing Act

As the new Dutch government takes shape, it will face the delicate task of balancing its commitment to upholding the rule of law and human rights with the demands of its constituents for stricter immigration controls. The successful implementation of their policies will depend not only on navigating the complex legal and diplomatic landscape but also on fostering social cohesion and promoting a spirit of inclusivity and tolerance within the Netherlands.

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