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Geert Wilders is the leader of the Dutch ‘Party for Freedom’, and one of Europe’s most recognisable advocates for free speech. Because of his criticism of mass immigration and Islam, Wilders has faced constant death threats since 2004, requiring security wherever he goes.

We caught up with him to discuss the current political climate in the Netherlands, his hopes for a future ‘Nexit’, and the Dutch attitude to the Ukrainian refugees.

Editor: Mr Wilders, your Party (the PVV) came third in last year’s election – what can you tell us about the current political landscape in the Netherlands right now?

Geert Wilders: Well, we had municipality elections last week and very few people came to vote – less than 50 percent, which is really the lowest we ever had in municipality elections. So there is a lot of distrust in politics, and more specifically in government. Even though it was local government, lots of people vote according to their national principles so it’s not going too well.

We have now a Prime Minister in his fourth cabinet, and people feel they have very little influence in changing the government, whether it’s about the European Union, lower taxes, or less immigration or whatever issue. People feel that they have very few things to say. So, the state of our democracy, the trust in government is indeed, from left to right, actually over the whole political spectrum you have a different analysis, but they all agree that we have a serious problem when it comes to the political climate in the Netherlands.

Editor: You are famously Eurosceptic – are you encouraged by what you’ve seen of Britain post-Brexit?

Geert Wilders: Yes, of course. Britain chose to regain their national sovereignty – that is the best thing that any country at the end of the day could decide. Of course, it will hurt at the beginning. We also had a survey made I think about ten years ago, what would happen if the Dutch would leave the European Union, and at the beginning it would hurt. But at the end of the day, you will be stronger – both your economy, and your parliament will be stronger, because it’s more sovereign. Your law making, you’re in-charge of your own budget, of your own immigration policy, and so on.

No one expected it to go better for Britain in a fortnight. But yes they regained national sovereignty, and I think they are far better off than we are. Unfortunately, because of what is happening in the Ukraine now, you see that all the pro-EU forces take their chance you know when it comes to a European army, they insist there has to be a European army, more funding for Europe, a common immigration policy. Of course for the Ukrainians, it’s the worst thing to happen first and foremost. But it is also misused by pro-EU politicians, to get more EU instead of less, and unfortunately a lot of people support it nowadays.

Editor: That being the case, are you still pushing for a referendum on ‘Nexit’, and if so, what do you think your chances are?

Geert Wilders: Of course, I’m still in favour of it. But to be honest, my chances today would be very slim – it would be disapproved by a large majority, because people now are not in the mood; not because of Britain, but because of what is happening in the Ukraine. So this would be the worst moment. But I’ve learnt, all the time that I’ve been in politics, never give in, you know, always keep pushing your own subjects. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not easy, but we are chosen I think for the times that are not easy, and I’m really convinced on all possible levels that I just mentioned to you, it would be far better to leave the EU.

Of course we can still work together with other countries that we are neighbouring, with other countries that we have treaties with, or could have treaties with like Britain is doing. It’s not isolation, it’s just defending your own national sovereignty on every level, and that is what we need. It’s not the right time today, but I will keep pushing it if anyone asks me in parliament or outside, I will advocate leaving the EU. But it will not happen today or tomorrow, but hopefully it will happen later.

Editor: Moving on to yourself, you often describe yourself as a ‘right-wing liberal’ I believe, and you’ve said in the past that Margaret Thatcher was your greatest political model – why do you think your political opponents insist on classifying you as ‘far-right’?

Geert Wilders: Well, actually I really don’t know that. It must be because of my criticism of immigration and Islamisation that they do that. You know, in Holland we have today almost 20 different Parties in our parliament. Which means that it is very difficult (we don’t have a two or three Party system), so it’s very difficult to form a government – you have to compromise. And the result of this multi-Party system we have, and no real threshold to get elected in parliament, everybody has to compromise, and the result is we have no real opposition. Everybody wants to have a seat at the table; everybody depends on everyone else, so in our parliament what you would call opposition would be, for instance on the left side of the political spectrum the Socialist Party or the Green Party or the Social Democrats who are not in government, but you will not see one debate where they are being tough on the government, because they are all too friendly with one another – they know if they are not, they will never get a place at the table.

And we don’t. Of course, we want to govern – we supported a minority government for a few years a decade ago, but we will not compromise in this balance of power – we need a strong opposition, and we are doing that. We are speaking out loud, we are speaking our minds, we are not compromising, or afraid of never getting invited to the table after the election. And we speak out on subjects that nobody else is speaking out about. We just talked about the European Union, about immigration, about lower taxes, about the end of the Islamisation of the Netherlands and the influence of Islam as a totalitarian ideology on our society. And nobody does it, and everybody is friendly to one another, so you know it’s easy to label a Party; I’ve been labelled everything from ‘racist’ to ‘fascist’ to ‘extreme right’, all the different things you know. It’s a token of weakness to label a political opponent – they should address my arguments in parliament, and they don’t. So, actually I don’t know if I’d call myself a liberal. I come from a liberal Party a long time ago, I served in a Conservative Liberal Party, but I would say that my Party today is culturally conservative on many issues we are conservative; when it comes to immigration, when it comes to our national values, when it comes to law and order, we are a real conservative Party.

But then again, when it comes to for instance the economy or social issues, we are seeing that we even get voters from the Left, from the Socialist Party because we fight for the voters who are in tough neighbourhoods of major big cities. Those who are the first to pay the price for mass immigration, the Islamisation. And they are not conservative voters, but they like our ideas about immigration. They have a very low income as well, and not the highest education, and we also get a lot of support from them. So yes, we are culturally conservative, but when it comes to issues such as income or pensions or public health, I don’t think the Left are in-charge of those issues, that the Left have a monopoly on social policy, on public health issues; they don’t.

So we are not, like many other conservative Parties, we are in favour of all the issues I just mentioned, but especially when it comes to social issues or pensions for the elderly, we fight for them, even stronger than many of the left-wing Parties here in parliament. But on the issues of sovereignty, law and order, those values, yes we are more conservative than anything else.

Editor: In terms of free speech, you’ve just said everyone’s frightened to speak out if that loses them a seat at the table. You once said the restrictions on your life (because you’ve been such a prominent advocate of free speech in the past), were a situation you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy – could you give us an idea of the restrictions you currently face, are they the same as they’ve been in the past?

Geert Wilders: Yes, while the threats to my life have been higher or lower at certain points, the level of my security has not changed for at least 18 years now. Since I got into trouble in 2004, almost 18 years ago, I have not been living in my own home, but in a government-owned safe house. It is not mine; I do not even rent it, I just get it because of my situation. I can go nowhere by myself, I cannot even open my own letterbox at home. I am always together with the police, and security forces, everywhere I go outside, abroad or domestically. So actually, I have totally lost my own freedom, and I’m not complaining about it because this is the price you have to pay. There is no way back you know, this is my life now unfortunately, and I make the best of it.

But the point is, if you really speak out in favour of freedom of speech, let alone if you use the freedom of speech. If you talk about what the Germans call a Leitkultur: dominant culture, and what a dominant culture means, and why Islam (I’m not talking about the people, but the ideology of Islam) why they are not free, and why all the countries where Islam is dominant are unfree countries. What it means, and what immigration means for the Netherlands when it comes to Islamic immigration, then you get either fatwas as I got; you are taken to court by people who hate your guts. You are silenced in parliament, at least that’s what they try. So, you pay a heavy price – that’s why freedom is a very relative issue you know. It’s absolute for the people who talk according to the wishes of the elite that are in-charge. But if you diverge from that, it’s very relative; it’s non-existent. So, it’s a sad thing, but most people they don’t experience it, but it’s 100% true unfortunately.

Editor: I believe you. We have a similar issue in Britain with cancel culture, as they call it now, something I’m sure you’ve heard of. Do you think we are winning or losing the battle for free speech?

Geert Wilders: Well, we have no alternative than to win. But it does not look good to be honest. We also have the crazy cancel culture here, which is getting worse by the day. So, it doesn’t look as if we are winning the battle. But I always say to my people, there is no alternative than to stay and fight and regain our national sovereignty; to fight and keep, and regain our personal and national freedom. And politicians like me, and there are many more in the world fortunately, and Parties like mine, we have no alternative than to win. But it doesn’t look good now. I am still positive that it can, and it will change, and often it needs to get worse before it gets better; before there is support to change it. This is how it goes in the West unfortunately. So yes, we are not winning, but we will win.

Editor: I hope you’re right! Turning to Ukraine, I read reports that the Netherlands is expecting around 50,000 refugees. How sympathetic are the Dutch towards those people?

Geert Wilders: Today they are very sympathetic to them, they are really open, because they see the difference. We have a lot of Syrians and others here as well; people see we compare the young men who left their women and children in Syria to fight the war, and came here for our social benefits and other things, and now they see that the men stayed in the Ukraine to fight for their country, and the women and children come. So today there is a lot of sympathy, I believe all over Europe for the refugees.

But of course, this should be, and this can only be limited, temporary. And I’m afraid that that will not happen, you know. Of course, countries should provide shelter for real refugees, especially women and children who have fled their country like Ukraine. But, for instance if you look at my country, it’s one of the most highly populated countries per capita in Europe, and it can only be limited and temporary. We have a lot of problems already in the Netherlands when it comes to housing. We have 300,000 houses that we should have and we don’t have. We have so many problems here.

I told the government in parliament last week, listen everyone understands that we have to take our share, but it can only be limited and temporary. But the first thing you should do is send all those fake refugees that you let into our country, illegals as well who went through so many courts and were rejected: Syrians, Somalians, whoever, pick them up and send them packing. That’s what you should do, make room for genuine refugees to stay here temporarily. They said yesterday on our 8 O’Clock news, we have to make room for everybody: for Syrians, for Ukrainians, and that will be totally impossible.

So, I’m afraid that even though it’s very popular today, if our government and other governments act like this, then at the end of the day it will totally turn against them and that will be very sad, but that is what I foresee could happen.

Editor: Do you think the juxtaposition of genuine refugees, the women and children of Ukraine whose husbands and fathers have stayed behind to fight, and, as you say the economic migrants and the illegals – do you think that will put pressure on the government to send such migrants home?

Geert Wilders: I’m sure that 90% of the people think like that. If you hold (unfortunately the government abolished the referendum law we had a few years ago), but if we had a referendum, I predict that 80-90% of the Dutch people from left to right, to the centre of the political spectrum would support such a view. But unfortunately, this is not what the political elite believes, and this is one of the gaps between governments and people.

And even if they would want to, and they don’t, as I told you yesterday they said there should be space for everyone. And if you say get rid of the fake refugees, the young men from Syria who are not seeking shelter here, but are here for our social benefits, and housing and everything else, the Left call’s you a racist. And 90% of the people agree with that: that A) the government won’t do that, and B) even if they tried, they would find themselves against so many European laws, directives coming directly from the European Union that prohibit any young men, even from a safe country like Morocco or Algeria, who know that if they apply for asylum they will be rejected – they can go to court, and extend their stay for years often. Because of the European laws, if anyone comes to the Dutch border and they say I want to claim asylum, I lost my passport, they will be admitted. So the government doesn’t want to stop it, and even if did, they would find themselves up against European laws, against UN laws, that prohibit them from acting how they should act.

So, it is totally impossible for many countries. The Danish did it you know, they got an opt-out from the European Union, and if you are bordering Schengen then you have a little more leverage, like in the past Orban did, or other countries with fences and things like that. But with internal borders only, it’s totally impossible to do it – another good reason to get in-charge of our own asylum policy, and to at least get an opt-out from the European Union when it comes to immigration policy. I think it is better to leave the European Union, to be in-charge – I always say, it feels like you are in your own home, but you are not in-charge of your own front door, you cannot decide who to let into your house as a guest, and who to deny access. We are not in-charge of the front door of our own home, and people understand that. People want to make room in their own home for real refugees, but they want to get rid of the people who are not eligible to stay there. But the government will not do it, and the government even cannot do it.

Editor: Geert Wilders, thank you for joining us.

Geert Wilders: My pleasure.

Read this article on the website of The New Conservative.