Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Dutch MEP defends 'discriminatory' website

An MEP from a Dutch party that has launched a website encouraging people to complain about migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe has defended the website for being a means of "listening to citizens".

Auke Zijlstra, a member of the right-wing Dutch Peoples Party (PVV), spoke during a debate on "discriminatory websites", on 13 March 2012.

Users are encouraged to enter the details of an alleged offence anonymously before clicking in the circles each representing a particular "problem" presented by Eastern Europeans.

Categories include drunkenness, double parking and noise pollution, and the site has already generated more than 40,000 responses.

Mr Zijlstra accused the "Brussels elite" of "importing criminality from Eastern Europe", through the EU's principle of the free movement of people, claiming that crime levels in the Netherlands had risen since the 2004 expansion of the EU.

However the PVV's stance was criticised from MEPs from across the political spectrum.

Dutch green MEP Marije Cornelissen described it as "entirely discriminatory", and socialist group leader Hannes Swoboda urged the Dutch government to condemn the website.

The country's prime minister, Mark Rutte, whose governing coalition relies on a certain degree of support from the PVV, has described the website as a "party political matter" rather than a government one.

However Ms Cornelissen accused the Dutch government of "stoking up bad blood and bad feeling", such as blocking the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the free-movement Schengen zone.

Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said that the free movement of people should mean that "people feel at home no matter where they decide to reside".

She warned that incitement to xenophobia was an offence, and urged the Dutch authorities to investigate whether the website breached Dutch or EU law.

Meanwhile Denmark's EU minister Nicolai Wammen, representing the Council of Ministers, commented that "freedom of speech doesn't mean the freedom to say anything about anyone".

MEPs voted on a resolution expressing concern at the website during the daily voting session on 15 March 2012.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.


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