Time reports: After a few weeks of reading online about Donald Trump’s transition to the presidency, Marco Kopping, a 36-year-old apprentice at a car-parts supplier near Frankfurt, decided to get involved in German politics. He had never sympathized with a political party before, let alone joined one. But in December he received his glossy membership card from Alternative for Germany (AfD), one of the far-right movements now riding the updraft from Trump’s ascent. What drove him, Kopping says, “was the feeling of a revolution.” He didn’t want to be left behind.
Across the European Union, politicians on the right-wing fringe have been invigorated by Trump’s victory, which has given them a chance to attract new supporters, build coalitions and argue that, despite the often-glaring differences between them, they are all part of a movement with seemingly unstoppable momentum.
The most striking proof yet of that movement came on Saturday in the cross-section of far-right populists who met for the first time, at the AfD’s invitation, at a convention in the German city of Koblenz. A day after Trump’s Inauguration, the stars of the European right drew a direct line between Trump’s success at the ballot box and their own looming electoral battles. [Continue reading…]
Natalie Nougayrède writes: One year ago in Berlin, Lisa F, a 13-year-old German-Russian girl, disappeared for 30 hours. When she returned to her parents, she claimed she had been kidnapped and raped by “Arab” men. This was a lie – as she later admitted. She had fallen out with her parents and invented the whole story. But that did little to stop the episode from becoming the centrepiece of a whirlwind Russian disinformation campaign aimed at destabilising Angela Merkel and German institutions.
Russian state media and pro-Russian websites in Germany immediately swirled with reports. Merkel was already under pressure for her open-door policy on refugees. Now German far-right groups and representatives of Germany’s ethnic Russian community held demonstrations. The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, described Lisa (a dual German-Russian citizen) as “our girl” and accused German authorities of a cover-up and “whitewashing reality to make it politically correct”.
A diplomatic spat ensued, with the German foreign minister accusing Russia of “political propaganda”. Berlin officials struggled to counter the Russian campaign. But Moscow’s overt meddling in Germany’s domestic politics seeped into the public consciousness – for a while, at least.
Fast-forward to January 2017. The fallout from the Trump-Russia dossier has now placed Vladimir Putin and his power structure at the centre of American politics. For Europeans, a question arises: what could this all mean for the old continent, as it approaches key elections? This year, voting will take place in France, the Netherlands and in Germany. Remembering the Lisa scandal is important, for it says something about what may lie ahead.
Now that Russia’s covert activities are being so intensely discussed in the US, it is high time Europe placed as much attention on what it might, in turn, be confronted with – and to prepare itself. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: A Dutch court found anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders guilty Friday of insulting an ethnic group and inciting discrimination after he led chants against Moroccans, a conviction he promptly denounced as “madness.”
Wilders, the controversial leader of the Netherlands’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV), said he plans to appeal the verdict delivered by a panel of three “hating” judges. His party is leading in polls ahead of the country’s upcoming general election in March.
“Three PVV hating judges declare that Moroccans are a race and convict me and half of the Netherlands. Madness,” he wrote in a Twitter message after the verdict.
In March 2014, Wilders sparked outrage at a rally in The Hague after asking supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands.
After the crowd chanted, “Fewer! Fewer!” Wilders responded: “We’re going to organize that.” More than 6,400 people filed official complaints to the police, a sampling of which were read out in court.
The court imposed no punishment on Wilders, saying the conviction was punishment enough. The prosecution wanted to impose a fine of 5,000 euros ($5,288). [Continue reading…]
Politico reports: Look at photographs of Geert Wilders in the Dutch parliament, and the camera often shows a figure seated behind him: Martin Bosma, the polemicist of the Freedom Party (PVV).
A former journalist, whose side-swept brown hair keeps him a youthful 52, Bosma is often described in Dutch media as the PVV’s ideologist. “He’s the brain. He invented the PVV,” said Geert Tomlow, a former parliamentary elections candidate from the party.
Bosma’s ideas are bearing fruit at just the right time, with the PVV leading in the polls five months from a general election that could see the party double in size in the parliament. He and Wilders have helped push the center-ground of Dutch politics to the Right and mainstreamed positions once confined to the fringe.
Since entering parliament a decade ago, Bosma has published two books, each released to a flurry of television interviews and controversy.
The autobiographical “The Fake Elite of the Counterfeiters” takes aim at a left-wing clique he accuses of taking over cultural institutions and allowing immigration in an underhand coup to achieve radical aims by stealth.
“Minority in One’s Own Land” turns to South African history. Bosma argues that the predominantly Dutch-descended settlers, the Afrikaners, became outnumbered by black South Africans and subjected to “cultural genocide” and “Apartheid 2.0” in events he warns could foreshadow the fate of the Netherlands. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: A Dutch-led investigation has concluded that the powerful surface-to-air missile system that was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine two years ago, killing all 298 on board, was trucked in from Russia at the request of Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night.
The report largely confirmed the already widely documented Russian government role not only in the deployment of the missile system, called a Buk, or SA-11, but the subsequent cover up, which continues to this day.
The report by a team of prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine was significant for applying standards of evidence admissible in court, while still building a case directly implicating Russia, and is likely to open a long diplomatic and legal struggle over the tragedy.
With meticulous detail, working with cellphone records, social media, witness accounts and other evidence, Dutch prosecutors traced Russia’s role in deploying the missile system into Ukraine and its attempt to cover its tracks after the disaster. The inquiry did not name individual culprits and stopped short of saying that Russian soldiers were involved. [Continue reading…]
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…]
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…]
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…]
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…]
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…]
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.