Dutch allow Wilders' anti-Pole website, EU critical

AMSTERDAM Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:58pm GMT

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government refused to ban a key parliamentary ally's website inviting the public to post complaints about Poles and other east Europeans despite widespread criticism at home and abroad, including from the European Commission.

A Dutch government spokesman said the website, set up by Geert Wilders' Freedom Party was a matter for the party.

The party (PVV) gives the Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition a majority and its popularity has grown on the back of its tough stance on immigrants, notably Muslims but also from European countries, including EU members such as Poland.

The European Commission condemned the website, saying it ran against European principles of freedom of movement.

"We call on all citizens of the Netherlands not to follow this intolerance. Citizens should instead clearly state on the PVV's website that Europe is a place of freedom," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.

The Polish embassy said it has asked the Dutch authorities to review the website after Dutch government watchdog, Nationale Ombudsman, rejected the embassy's request to shut it down.

The website, called "Report central and eastern Europeans", encouraged people to post complaints about Polish, Bulgarian and other eastern European immigrants, particularly if they had lost their job to an immigrant from one of those countries.

"This mass labour immigration causes many problems: nuisance, pollution, labour market competition, and integration and housing problems," said the website, launched on Wednesday.

Janusz Wolosz, spokesman for the Polish embassy in The Hague, said that a small minority of Polish people caused trouble in the Netherlands and that they should be dealt with by the relevant authorities.

"This kind of website which targets one specific group of nationals - central and east Europeans - is in itself discriminatory because you cannot have a website...targeting a specific group," he said.

Labour immigration has been on the rise in the Netherlands since 2005, more than doubling to about 40,000 people in 2010. Of those job-seekers, almost 80 percent came from EU member states, particularly Poland, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania, Statistics Netherlands data shows.

Immigrants usually work on farms or construction sites and some Dutch locals have complained because the workers sometimes live together in groups and do not conform to Dutch ways.

The Dutch employers organisation VNO-NCW was quick to criticise the website, saying it was "irresponsible".

"Companies need this labour force. Moreover, Poland is a member of the European Union. What would be the reaction if Poland said: 'Dutch people are no longer welcome'?," Bernard Wientjes, chairman of the organisation, said in a statement.

Wilders said in an emailed statement the website was a "resounding success", with 32,000 reports in two days and the Freedom Party was not concerned about criticism.

"There is absolutely no talk of discrimination. For us, this is about getting the facts of nuisance and labour market competition by middle and eastern Europeans," he said.

(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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