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Dutch Freedom Party’s EP leader: I think we are getting more friends

2019.04.30. 13:15 Módosítva: 2019.04.30. 19:41
  • There is nothing radical or extreme right in the policies of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), Marcel de Graaff, the party's member of the European Parliament (MEP) explained to EUrologus.
  • He emphasized that they are not anti-European, either. De Graaff, who is also the co-president of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group in the EP, is a great admirer of the history and the cultural heritage of European countries. What he has issues with is the European Union as an institution.
  • He thinks that the EU is a tool in the hands of a European political elite who use it to exploit member states. However, as more and more voters realize this, nationalist parties will gain ground, and in 10-15 years they will command the majority in the European Parliament, against a conglomerated block of traditional conservative, liberal and socialist parties.
  • He is confident that the ENF group will either increase its membership or will be reformed as a bigger group under a different name, but the cooperation between the PVV, Marine Le Pen's National Rally and Matteo Salvini's League is set to continue after the May 2019 EP elections.

We asked our readers to send their questions to the MEP. The following interview was based on the topics that they suggested.

Norbert asked: "Index.hu presented the Party for Freedom as a radical right-wing party. What do you think about this? What is the reason that your party is described as radical in the media?"

The media is absolutely left-wing biased. I do not see anything radical in our party, apart from the fact that we do not support the left-wing ideology that is dominant in the EU at this moment. 

My problem is when I describe parties that stand to the right of the European People’s Party, I have to find a short classification for them. Radical right is less of an offensive description to my mind than extreme right.

I reject the left–right division, because it was invented by those that we call the political left. In their view, there are basically two camps in politics: the socialists, and everything else that is not complying with the socialist thought. 

We think that the division lies elsewhere: between Europhiles and Eurosceptics. We are Eurosceptics, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just as socialists have criticism on all kinds of issues, we also have criticism: on what seems to be the holy cow of left-wing thinking: a fully integrated EU. I am entitled also to express my criticism on subjects that I think are not beneficial to our voters. Why should we make this division on ideological differences? Why make it so emotional and so big that it even seems to divide society? I’m open to discussing a thought with everybody, to me this is a moderate approach.

So, you say it is better to describe the Party for Freedom as Eurosceptic?

Yes, it is a Eurosceptic party and also an immigration-sceptic party, because we also see a host of negative effects of immigration. If you see for instance an overpopulation of immigrants in prisons and in crime statistics, then I think it is something that needs to be addressed on the level of government policy. And if you do not accept the criticism and frame it in an extremely negative way, you ignore the damage that has been done to the society by immigration.

Miklós asked: "Voters in Europe are tired of and disillusioned with politics, and those political parties campaign most actively who belong to the "elite". This elite wants to eliminate nations. At the same time, the organizations supporting cooperation between nations are approaching the campaign poorly. They are called "anti-European", even though their proposal is a peaceful and beautiful Europe, based on the cooperation of nations. This image, this alternative is badly presented. Is this a conscious policy choice?"

The first part of the explanation is the bias in the media, at least in Western Europe. In some Eastern European countries, there is less bias against our parties, for which I envy the countries and the people who live there. Eurosceptics will get less television time and feature less often in newspapers. The second thing is the money. Campaigning costs a lot, and pro-EU parties enjoy the support of the elite. More funding makes it possible for them to advertise more and get more visibility.

It causes a pain in my heart when we are described as anti-Europeans. I am absolutely not anti-Europe, but this EU is something else. Europe is a continent with a beautiful tradition, with countries that through their history have developed their own identity, which each of them could be proud of. What I oppose is an EU that tries to erase every national identity and make everybody a globalist individual without any roots in history and in their own local traditions.

The question is: who profits from this globalist EU and who does not. And we arrive to the elite again, because it serves their interest that the EU is driving wages down in Western Europe, in Germany for instance, with the less expensive labour from Eastern and Southern Europe. France and Germany are the greatest driving forces of the EU and of its further integration. They are the ones who profit from the globalist policies, and to point this out is part of our message. Which is already being put aside by applying the term anti-European to us. No, it is not anti-European, it is anti-EU.

Do you think that the EU elite really wants to abolish nations? To me it does not sound practical or achievable, either.

They have a destructive agenda when it comes to identity. There are really really big differences between the nations in the EU. For example: the Northern countries, with their origins in Protestantism, against the Catholic South and East. That expresses itself in a different culture, different behaviour, different attitude towards essential issues in life. If you push hard enough, you can try to eradicate these differences, and this is in the interest of this elite. They will keep trying until enough voters say: enough.

The EU has this myth, stating that they have provided wealth and peace in the last 70 years. It is not true: NATO provided peace in Europe after the Second World War, they prevented Western Europe from being taken over by the Soviet Union. It was the nuclear deterrents, financed by the US, which resulted in the Cold War, but eventually kept Europe safe. We have the United States to thank for the collapse of Soviet Union, too: it was under Ronald Reagan’s presidency that the economic power of the US finally forced the Soviet Union to let go of their satellites like Eastern Germany. It is the NATO collective that kept and keeps Europe safe.

The other argument for the European Union is true: an internal market creates wealth. That is why we are in favour of doing trade between the European nation states. But we do not support a political union or a taxation union or a banking union or a social union. In these issues, the national governments know what is best for their people, because they are elected by their own people. The political, fiscal, social EU, with its "one size fits all" policy creates such a big gap between government and people that it cannot work. 

András asked: "If you like Viktor Orbán and the political and living conditions in Hungary so much, would you mind swapping citizenship and home address with me? Because I would do everything to escape from here to such a liberal, green, civilized, modern country like the Netherlands."

This is painting an ideal picture of the Netherlands. The reality is harsher. We have hundreds of thousands of people going to what we call “food banks”. People who are so poor that they need to go to charity for their daily food. We did not face such problems before, not even during the 1930’s depression. That is also the Netherlands.

Just like that fact that you are no longer safe at night when you walk the streets in the Netherlands. When two women walk hand-in-hand on the streets at night in Amsterdam, it is probable that they will be beaten up. Also: Jewish schools, synagogues have full protection day and night, because when you are a Jew, you are no longer safe in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands really has this picture of a liberal and tolerant society, and the things that you describe are usually attributed to the effect of the extreme right parties that conjured up a lot of hatred against minorities.

We have a tolerant view on society, but can you be tolerant towards those who want to destroy your tolerance? At certain houses of worship – I do not call any specific religion, but everybody knows that it is the Islamic establishments – hate is preached against homosexuals and against non-muslims. Actually, people visiting those mosques are being radicalized. It is a big problem, and if you cannot address that, if you are branded extreme right and intolerant, because you do not want gay people to be thrown off buildings, that is a perversion of reality. 

We want people to be safe in this tolerant country that we have, but which we less and less have. And that is what we are fighting for. That is what we want to preserve. If you close your eyes for that, within 10 or 15 years every tolerance will be gone. Not because of parties who are critical towards Sharia law, but because of Sharia law itself.

The same religious fundamentalism that you talked about can be found in the Christian tradition as well. This conservativism that rejects minorities. Is it necessary to fight against that as well?

That could be true, but in the Netherlands we have a tradition of holding together very different ideologies within the society. At the beginning of the 20th century one-third of the population was catholic, one-third protestant, one-third communist. And we found a way to deal with that. It was that everybody accepted the law of our country, the traditional human rights as they appear in the French declaration of human rights. This is where the problem with Sharia law arises, because they reject the laws and the tolerance, and the human rights of Western Europe.

It is very problematic if you think differently than others, and you oppose integration and oppose living together. That is the difference between these Christian fundamentalists, mostly of very protestant denominations in the Netherlands. Yes, they fully comply with the Bible, that’s correct, but they do for a full 100 percent support the government and the laws of the Netherlands. These religious fundamentalists have very small parties now, they never join the coalition government, but they always support it. Therefore, we do not oppose religious fundamentalism as such. But if it comes to rejecting your neighbour who thinks differently, then you have problem and that is what we oppose.

Csaba asked: "Do you agree with the basic tenet of Viktor Orbán, which, projected to your country would sound like this: every Dutchman who criticizes the government is a traitor?"

It is very difficult to make a comparison. We are framed in the Netherlands as right-wing extremists and radical right. Socialist politicians look at us as traitors, traitors of the EU project, the EU ideal etc. So, we are being under attack by the government and by media outlets all the time. I think that is even more intolerant than the government in Hungary, because there you do have respect for people who think differently. If you want to compare the one with the other, and if you think about going to a country that is really liberal, then you should go to the Netherlands. But if you value having a family and children, just like it always has been in Europe, then do not go to the Netherlands. 

László asked: "Parties like yours are slowly gaining ground even in the most liberal Northern countries of Europe. Still, left-wing liberal parties and traditional right-wing parties who are barely different from leftists and liberals usually cooperate against your reformist forces, and your parties usually remain in minority. What is your opinion on this?"

Patriotic parties like us are indeed gaining ground in the EU and in a number of member states already are part of the government, very successfully. This success, for instance Matteo Salvini’s gains us a lot of support elsewhere in the EU. 

We are in a transitional phase. First we had the division between socialists and conservatives, and the conservatives held the traditional values. Now we have an elite set of political parties, who are socialists, liberals and traditional conservatives. They fight on one agenda, and on the other side we have the patriotic parties who basically have taken the place of the original, traditional conservatives. These values are still very much alive in EU countries, but they are not represented by the elite. It is a new division, a completely new political landscape, and I think after ten-fifteen years the patriotic parties will have the majority in the parliament.

How do you see the cooperation with Matteo Salvini’s party, the League, and Marine Le Pen’s party, the National Rally after the EP elections?

During this term we had fantastic cooperation with Marine and Matteo. First of all, I feel that we are friends, and we are also all part of the same group. This could serve as a model for the future. I think that there will be an enlargement of the group, or a new group will be created under a new name which will include the old friends. I do not see any problems, I see only more success. 

When two weeks ago Matteo Salvini convened a meeting, it looked like he was founding his own new political family with the Finns, the Alternative for Germany, and the Danish People's Party. The Freedom Party and the National Rally were not there.

I do not think that you need to read into that more than there is. Matteo Salvini forged great alliances with parties that previously were not in that same mindset of having a broad alliance. What you now see is that more and more parties from more and more member states are convinced of the effectiveness of a certain broad alliance. I do not see that we are getting less friends, I think we are getting more friends.

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