Netherlands to ban the burqa, says anti-Islam MPs
The Netherlands will ban the burqa under measures agreed in a pact to form a minority coalition government, anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, whose party is part of the deal, announced Thursday.
"A new wind will blow in The Netherlands," declared Wilders, standing alongside the leaders of the pro-business VVD party and the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) that will form the minority government.
In addition to the measures agreed by the three parties, the number of immigrants who enter The Netherlands will be halved, Wilders told journalists in The Hague as the agreement was announced.
"There will also be a burqa ban," said the controversial politician, who is to go on trial in Amsterdam next Monday for inciting hatred against Muslims.
"We want the Islamisation to be stopped," he said.
Wilders -- who campaigns for a ban on Muslim immigration and wants to end the building of new mosques and tax Muslim head scarves -- had a say in the plan's immigration policies in return for supporting its austerity measures.
The "Freedom and responsibility" plan seeks to cut government spending by 18 billion euros (24 billion dollars) by 2015.
It proposes cutting The Netherlands' contribution to the European Union by one billion euros and shaving a billion euros off development cooperation and 1.2 billion off health care costs.
It also wants to reduce the number of MPs from 150 to 100 and the number of senators from 75 to 50.
The longest chapter of the accord -- seven of its 46 pages -- is however devoted to immigration.
It proposes stricter conditions for granting asylum and making it harder for the partners and children of immigrant workers to move to The Netherlands. It also wants integration examinations to become harder.
CDA party members, deeply divided over cooperation with Wilders, have yet to approve the new accord which will be debated at a party congress on Saturday.
If they do, the CDA's 21 MPs must put their final stamp on the deal before Queen Beatrix can give presumed prime minister-in-waiting Mark Rutte, the VVD leader, the go-ahead to form his cabinet.
The VVD, or People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, narrowly won the June 9 elections with 31 out of 150 parliamentary seats but needs partners to form a government.
Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) will remain outside the envisaged VVD-CDA cabinet but will provide the minority government with the majority it needs to pass decisions through parliament in return for a voice in policy formation.
The three parties started negotiations soon after the polls to reach a balance between Wilders' socialist economic policies and strict budget cuts promised by the VVD and CDA.
CDA leader Maxime Verhagen described the deal as a "very good governing agreement."
"I am convinced that it is an agreement that every Christian Democrat will be able to identify with," he said.
Rutte said his government planned on carrying out "important reforms".
"We want to give the country back to the working Dutch citizen," he said.
The banning of the burqa is controversial in Europe, where the French parliament this month passed a law prohibiting the wearing of a full-face veil in public.
The exact number of women wearing the head-to-toe covering burqa in The Netherlands is not known but are believed to amount to a few dozen. Muslims make up an estimated about 900,000 of the 16.5 million Dutch population.
© 2010 AFP