Brexit causes resurgence in pro-EU leanings across continent

The Guardian reports: Two weeks after Britain’s EU referendum, Europe has defied predictions that the UK’s vote to leave would inspire a surge in copycat breakaway movements, with establishment parties enjoying gains and populists dropping points in the polls.

In Germany, the Brexit aftermath has seen Angela Merkel’s popularity ratings surge to a 10-month high, almost returning to the level the chancellor enjoyed before the height of the refugee crisis last September. An Infratest Dimap poll published on Friday also marks a two percentage point gain for Merkel’s party, the centre-right CDU, and a one point gain for the centre-left Social Democratic party.

Rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland, meanwhile, has seen its ratings drop by three percentage points to 11%. The anti-refugee party’s struggles may lie in its leader’s failure to contain an internal rift over an antisemitism scandal.

“The Brexit debate has fostered a more pro-European climate among the German population,” said Infratest Dimap’s managing director Michael Kunert. “The government is profiting from this trend while populist, eurosceptic parties are suffering.”

In the Netherlands, seen as one of the countries that could potentially follow Britain’s example, support for the Freedom party of far-right politician Geert Wilders has fallen to its lowest level since last autumn. One poll suggests Wilders could win 30 out of the 150 seats in parliament if an election were held now, three fewer than a week ago, though his party remains the most popular in the fragmented Dutch political landscape. [Continue reading…]

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Dutch Pegida leader and expelled German deputy hunt migrants on Bulgaria border

The Telegraph reports: The former frontwoman of Germany’s Pegida anti-Muslim movement and a leader of its Dutch offshoot have travelled to Bulgaria to hunt down migrants attempting to cross the border from Turkey, it has emerged.

Tatjana Festerling called on the “men of Europe” to travel to Bulgaria and join local vigilantes attempting to hunt down migrants.

Ms Festerling, who came to international notoriety earlier this year when she called for asylum-seekers to be shot if they attempted to cross the German border, was expelled from her post as Pegida’s deputy leader two weeks ago.

She boasted on her Facebook page on Friday of spending a day with the “Bulgarian Military Veterans Union”, a paramilitary group of vigilantes who patrol the border searching for illegal immigrants. Ms Festerling said she was accompanied on the trip by a leader of the Dutch offshoot of Pegida, Edwin Wagensveld.

She posted pictures of herself and Mr Wagensveld posing alongside men in military-style uniform, their faces masked with balaclavas, holding up a banner which read “Fortress Europe”. Requests for comment made to the Dutch branch of Pegida have not yet been returned. [Continue reading…]

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In a traumatised Netherlands, faith in the EU is plummeting

Joris Luyendijk writes: Once a beacon of progressive politics, the Netherlands today is a traumatised, angry and deeply confused nation. Support for immigration and the European project are at all-time lows. Synagogues and Jewish schools need police protection from homegrown jihadists, and freedom of expression is under serious pressure. Leading pundits and comedians incite hatred against Muslims in much the same way that antisemites rage against “the Jews”.

It seems a long time since “Dutch” was synonymous with tolerance. A founding member of the European Union, the Netherlands developed from the 1970s onwards into a laboratory for social and cultural change, boldly pioneering the legalisation of prostitution, soft drugs, euthanasia and gay marriage.

Those were the days when Dutch politicians and opinion-makers would refer to the Netherlands, without any apparent irony, as a “gidsland”, or “guide country”: a small nation leading by example. Its proudest moment probably came in June 1988 when an ethnically mixed team of Dutch footballers won the European Championships, beating the all-white teams of arch-rival Germany and then Russia. It felt like the ultimate vindication of multiculturalism.

Fast-forward 28 years, and heading the polls today is Geert Wilders’ PVV or Freedom party. Elected “politician of the year 2015”, Wilders is the sole member of the party he founded, ruling over it as undemocratically as the Arab dictators he so despises. He wants the Netherlands to drop the euro and leave the EU. Like Donald Trump he demands an end to all immigration from Islamic countries. A typical Wilders tweet: “As long as we have ‘leaders’ such as [Dutch prime minister] Rutte, Merkel, Obama and Cameron denying Islam and terror are one and the same, there will be more terrorist attacks.”

Of course there was racism and intolerance in the Netherlands during the 70s, 80s and 90s, too, and the country of old has not entirely disappeared. A slim majority continues to vote for pro-EU parties that abhor discrimination against Muslims. The popular mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, is openly and proudly Muslim. The speaker of parliament, Khadija Arib, is of Moroccan descent; and in 2007 Dutch readers voted the book The House of the Mosque by Iranian-born Kader Abdolah to be the second “best Dutch book ever”.

Yet the influence of the PVV is widely felt, particularly because the steadily growing far-left Socialist party shares many of its views on the EU. And with every new terrorist attack, wave of refugees or expensive euro bailout, the forces of regression grow stronger, both on the far right and the far left. [Continue reading…]

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Dutch journalist ‘detained in Turkey’ over Erdogan criticism

Deutsche Welle reports: Ebru Umar, a columnist for the Dutch “Metro” newspaper, says she has been detained for publishing tweets critical of the Turkish president. This comes after a diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands.

The detention occurred at Umar’s home in the western Turkish resort town of Kusadasi late Saturday, according to a post on the journalist’s Twitter account. [Continue reading…]

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Climate change judgement in the Hague could inspire a global civil movement

The Guardian reports: “You have been negotiating all my life”, cried out 21-year-old Anjali Appadurai from the lectern of a UN climate change conference four years ago. The activist, speaking on behalf of her nation’s youth, could have speaking for anyone who has taken a mild interest in more than two decades of international negotiations on climate change and stood aghast as world leaders have failed to protect the most basic of human rights – to exist.

But today, thanks to 886 Dutch citizens who decided to sue their government, all of that may change. We may not have to wait for the politicians to save us – the lawyers may step in instead. In the first successful case of its kind, a judge in the Hague has ruled that the Dutch government’s stance on climate change is illegal and has ordered them to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a hefty 25% within five years.

Lawyers say the precedent it sets could trigger similar cases all around the world. Already, in Belgium, 8, 000 citizens are preparing for a similar court case, with others pointing to another possible lawsuit in Norway. Although the case is only binding within the Netherlands, lawyers say that it will inspire lawyers and judges considering similar cases in many other countries. [Continue reading…]

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Dutch anti-Islam leader is major winner in polls

Reuters reports on the latest display of European Islamophobia:

Dutch anti-Islamist leader Geert Wilders scored major gains in local authority polls Thursday, making him a serious challenger for power in a June national election, preliminary results showed.

In the first test of public opinion since the collapse of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s coalition government last month, Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV) led in the city of Almere and was second in The Hague.

The results came on top of an opinion poll showing that the PVV, which campaigns against Muslim immigration as its main platform, would win the most seats — 27 in the 150-member Dutch parliament — in the June 9 election.

That would make it tough for Balkenende’s Christian Democrats, projected to win one seat less, to forge a strong coalition without Wilders. Months of talks between parties, and the resulting policy vacuum, could threaten a fragile economic recovery and cast doubt on the scope of planned budget cuts.

The popularity of Wilders, who compares Islam to fascism and the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf,” has dented the image of the Netherlands as a country that has often portrayed itself in the past as a bastion of tolerance.

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