Top politicians alarmed over divisions in society

3rd April 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 April 2006, AMSTERDAM — Seven senior political figures from different parties have come together to express alarm at what they believe to be the harsh tone in the debate about the relationship between native Dutch people and residents from immigrant backgrounds.

3 April 2006

AMSTERDAM — Seven senior political figures from different parties have come together to express alarm at what they believe to be the harsh tone in the debate about the relationship between native Dutch people and residents from immigrant backgrounds.

The politicians warn Dutch society may become divided if something isn't done to promote a dialogue between the groups.

They are to present the manifesto "Eén land, één samenleving" (one land, one society) to the chairpersons of the youth wings of most of the main Dutch political parties in the The Hague on Tuesday.

The figures behind the initiative include former Liberal Party leader Hans Dijkstal, former junior minister Jos van Kemenade (Labour - PvdA), former D-66 minister Jan Terlouw, former MP Mohammed Rabbae (GroenLinks) and Anja Meulenbelt, a Socialist Party Senator.

"We have to combine our forces," Rabbae said on Monday. "If we do nothing we could be faced with major conflicts and collisions."

The seven have expressed concern about what they see as the "threatened emotional alienation" between native Dutch people and Muslims in the Netherlands.  

Rabbae said his contacts with Muslims indicated to him how great the divisions had become since the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11. "The Netherlands was always a country of tolerance and freedom, but we are gradually becoming the pariah of Europe."

The manifesto calls for a new approach to bring the different groups in the Netherlands closer together. The authors claim the climate in the Netherlands has changed drastically in recent years from one of toleration to one of "demands and sanctions".

Accusing the government's integration demands on migrants of approaching assimilation, the document continues: "The tone of the cabinet's policy strengthens us and them thinking and aliens the new citizens from the government and society."

It also accused politicians in the Netherlands of choosing inward-looking provincialism rather than an open and tolerant society.

The youth wing of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democratic Party (CDA) is boycotting Tuesday's presentation. CDJA chairman Ronald van Bruchem dismissed the manifesto as a "cuddly document", which does not take account of what the government has achieved in the last three years in relation to integration and marriage migration.

Noting the document does not emphasise the requirement for allochtonen to make an effort, by learning Dutch and integrating, Van Bruchem said he "didn't want to go back to the 1980s".

Allochtonen can be used to refer to foreigners, migrants or first or second-generation Dutch citizens with a non-Dutch background.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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