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Netherlands: Far right coalition to curb protest, challenge Refugee Convention

In combination with bottom-up neoliberal redistribution and a brutalisation of ethics and language, this new fascist wave threatens to develop into a tsunami

As of the early hours of May 16, the Netherlands has been under a far-right coalition government led by the fascist Party for Freedom (PVV), already the largest party in the House of Representatives. The coalition includes the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the Christian-Democratic New Social Contract, and the right-populist Farmer-Citizen Movement. Now, the Dutch fascists and their enablers are looking for international allies to further tighten EU migration policy, as well as to “modernise” the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

The coalition agreement has 26 pages. The document is not very specific on many points, and after almost six months of negotiations one might ask what they have actually been talking about during this long period. However, when it comes to topics such as migration and refugees, the fascist and xenophobic character of this government becomes very clear. The introduction of the government programme announces the “toughest asylum admission regulation and the most comprehensive migration control package ever”. Under the title “Getting a grip on asylum and migration,” the document further announces “Firstly, the exemption provision of the Aliens Act 2000…will be activated as soon as possible…Secondly, a temporary Asylum Crisis Act with crisis response measures to deal with the immediate influx of asylum seekers and the reception crisis will come into force immediately”.

These paragraphs deal with the possibility of placing the field of immigration law under a state of emergency, governed without parliament. They also open up the possibility of ignoring international treaties on immigration and asylum policies. This could be difficult to implement, but knowing how PVV leader Geert Wilders usually proceeds, that could be part of the political calculation – with legal challenges providing him with an opportunity to attack the courts.

Importantly, with its planned migration crisis law, the government wants to put all asylum procedures on hold for at least two years. They also want to combat “illegal immigration” with border controls, and have announced that they will send back people who have crossed the border illegally – in practice, back to Germany and Belgium.

Moreover, the coalition agreement states that the government wants to “adjust” EU treaties and regulations on migration and advocates “a modernisation of the UN Refugee Convention” of 1951 “and will seek cooperation with like-minded member states at the United Nations” to achieve this. Many may laugh at the fact that a small country like the Netherlands wants to launch this initiative against the UN, but what if the far-right wins the upcoming EU elections? What if Trump wins the US elections? Leaders like Meloni and Sunak would also probably support it. Many countries around the world have laws and court decisions based on the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. If the fascist forces succeed in cancelling it or changing its essential parts, it would have a negative impact on refugees’ rights in many countries.

Oppressive polices

As could be expected from a far-right government, the document also announces “a visible presence and more police and police stations in the districts, in the neighbourhoods, in the regions; the criminal investigation department will be strengthened”, and there will be harsher penalties for “deviant behaviour” – a term not described in detail. There is to be a clear distinction between peaceful demonstrators and people who jeopardise “public order”, with significantly harsher penalties. The definition of what a terrorist organisation is also to be expanded – again the document does not say exactly how.

Apart from this, the usual neoliberal gifts to the rich and corporations are promised, showing the VVD negotiators’ influence on the agreement. The coalition agreement also states that public broadcasting in the Netherlands needs to be reformed, with a cut of 100 million Euros. Decision-making processes are to be streamlined. What this sentence exactly means is not described. And of course, climate denier Wilders is also taking aim at several carbon-cutting measures, with the promise to raise the daytime motorway speed limit back to 130 km/h and renewing the subsidy on “red diesel” for farmers.

The Netherlands may be a small country, but it has the fifth strongest economy in the European Union. This makes the Dutch state a net contributor to the EU, a fact that often plays a role when the various EU member states have a conflict and fight tooth and nail to enforce their interests. It is also important to realise that Geert Wilders and his PVV are not newcomers. In a 2021 article for Sunzi Bingfa I looked at the rise of the far right in the Netherlands. Wilders has been a prominent player in Dutch politics and the European far-right for more than 20 years now, since the assassination of his politics predecessor Pym Fortuyn. He speaks at international conferences, as he did a few weeks ago at CPAC in Orban’s Hungary, and is always busy building alliances with various far-right actors on an international level. He will use this to push his fascist agenda through.

The planned attack on the UN Refugee Convention should become significant on an international level. Domestically, the threat to govern under a state of emergency should be taken very seriously, joining a trend of crackdown on protest rights in Western nominal democracies – including the UK. Things are likely to get rough, and while the autonomous anti-fascist movement is in a deep crisis, we must do everything to fight back.

~ Riot Turtle

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