Dutch housing and integration minister resigns
Ella Vogelaar resigns following her Labour Party leaders’ criticism that she is failing to promote immigration integration.14 November 2008
THE HAGUE - The Dutch minister for housing and integration resigned Thursday after her fellow Labour Party leaders told her she was failing in efforts to promote integration of immigrants and regenerate run-down inner cities.
Ella Vogelaar is the first senior minister to quit Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's centrist coalition since it came to power early last year and her resignation plunges into confusion its attempts to cope with hundreds of thousands of mainly Islamic immigrants and the impoverished urban neighbourhoods where they often live.
At a news conference late Thursday, she said her party leadership had withdrawn its confidence in her for not achieving enough in her portfolio, which includes urban renewal and integration of new immigrants into Dutch society.
Vogelaar told reporters in The Hague: "I don't recognise myself in this criticism."
Non-Western immigrants make up around 10 percent of the 16 million Dutch population, many of them guest workers and their descendants from Turkey and Morocco.
Anti-immigrant sentiment peaked in the Netherlands following the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist. It has eased somewhat in recent years, but continues to be an important element in national debate, most recently over Moroccan youths blamed for unrest and crime in some towns and cities.
Vogelaar's predecessor was Rita Verdonk, whose hardline approach to immigration and integration policy earned her the nickname "Iron Rita" and transformed the Netherlands from one of the world's most-welcoming nations for immigrants to one of the toughest.
Vogelaar was widely perceived as more moderate and she defended her policies after quitting.
She criticised the Labour Party for having "no coherent policy" on integrating minorities.
"The accent is too much, in my opinion, on the tough approach," she said. "I am convinced that the approach should be two-sided: set limits and offer perspective."
In a written reaction, Balkenende said he valued Vogelaar's efforts as a minister and respected her decision to quit.
No replacement was immediately named.
[AP / Expatica]