AMSTERDAM – The Christian Democrat party has voted to cooperate with an
anti-Islam party, removing another hurdle to forming a conservative Dutch
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The Christian Democrats plan to join a minority cabinet led
by the pro-business VVD party, and with tacit support from Geert Wilders’s
anti-Islam Freedom Party.
The trio have announced a blueprint to curtail
immigration and make major spending cuts.
At a convention on Saturday in
Arnhem, a majority of 5,000 members of the party, known as the CDA, voted in
favor of a resolution to work with the Freedom Party, but there was significant
CDA parliament members will make a final decision this week,
with two lawmakers possibly still opposed.
The new government, that could
be formed as early as next week, is planning to ban face-covering burkas and
slash immigration, Wilders said at the end of the week.
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While Wilders has
the toughest anti-immigrant views, both the VVD and Christian Democrats pledged
before the elections to crack down on new arrivals, and the last Christian
Democrat-led government also wanted to ban burkas.
The policy blueprint
unveiled Thursday came after months of closed-doors negotiations following
inconclusive June 9 national elections.
Rutte's VVD party emerged as the
largest party, but Wilders’s Freedom Party rose from nine seats to 24,
underscoring a further shift from the Netherlands' long-held image as a bastion
of tolerance that welcomes newcomers.
Wilders said he hoped that by
toughening immigration regulations, the new government would slash the number of
asylum seekers getting into the Netherlands by one quarter and reduce by half
what he called “non-Western immigrants.”
The government said it plans to
make it harder for immigrants already living in the Netherlands to bring other
family members here and also would make it tougher for unskilled immigrants with
little chance of finding work to move to the country.
“We are taking
unprecedented measures to rein in immigration,” Wilders said.
immigrants who do get in will have to pay for their own integration courses and
could be kicked out if they do not complete them.
Wilders is scheduled to
go on trial in Amsterdam on Monday, on hate speech charges linked to his
outspoken criticism of Islam, which he describes as a violent political
Dutch governments in the past have said they planned to ban full-face
veils such as burkas, but have never pushed the policy into law.
On Friday, more than
100 people protesting the outlawing of squatting at unused buildings in the
Netherlands clashed with police in Amsterdam’s historic center, throwing stones,
setting fires and erecting barricades.
Police said early on Saturday that
11 protesters had been arrested, and two policemen, three police horses and an
unknown number of demonstrators had suffered minor injuries.
television station AT5 broadcast footage of police with batons battling
squatters in narrow streets and allies, with the protesters throwing rocks and
setting off fireworks.
AT5 published a photo of one young woman with a
mohawk haircut being escorted away by a police officer while bleeding from a
Squatting is the latest pillar of the country’s liberal
institutions – such as legal prostitution and cafes that openly sell marijuana –
to be abolished or curtailed as the Dutch become more conservative and rethink
the boundaries of their famed tolerance.
In Amsterdam, the epicenter of
the movement known in Dutch as “kraken,” or “breaking,” several hundred
squatters demonstrated peacefully during the day against the new law that makes
their way of life punishable by up to one year in prison.
some began throwing rocks at police and overturning cars.
attempted to disperse large groups on two streets.
By mid-evening, an
Associated Press eyewitness saw squatters using metal fences and piles of
bicycles to block one of the city’s bridges amid a haze of tear gas. An AP
photographer saw police using bulldozers and water cannons in an attempt to
clear the streets lining the city’s ancient canals of such barricades and to
quell fires set in piles of rubbish.
“Of course we’re going to resist –
resisting is part of what we do,” said a young English-speaking woman at a
“squat,” or occupied building, next to the Amstel River, ahead of Friday’s
protest. She identified herself only as Lilo.
Most squatters decline to
give their full names, both for philosophical reasons and to avoid trouble with
police or immigration authorities.
A study published this year by
Amsterdam’s Free University estimated the number of squatters at roughly 1,500
in the Dutch capital, a city of 750,000.
Mayor Eberhard van der Laan says
he plans to gradually empty the city’s remaining 200 squats.
there squatting definitely causes problems for a neighborhood,” he said, but
until now it has been seen mostly as a civil dispute between owners and
Beginning on Friday, building owners can argue that squatters
are breaking the law, the mayor said. That would “bring us to take action, where
in the past we might not have done anything.”
City officials said no
major evictions are expected on Friday, however.
Amsterdam and other
Dutch cities remain unusually liberal, even by European standards, but they have
gradually moved away from their free-for-all attitudes.
legal but has become more regulated, and Amsterdam has shuttered one-third of
its brothels. The number of marijuana cafes is declining amid new restrictions
to distance them from schools.
Squatting gained public sympathy after
World War II, during a time of severe housing shortages and anger at real estate
speculators. A Supreme Court ruling in 1971 found that entering an unused
building was not trespassing. The thinking was that it was humane, or at least
pragmatic, not to evict poor or homeless people living in an unused
Yet that view changed as the Netherlands grew more prosperous
and more sympathetic to business – and today the sentiment often runs against
the squatters’ anti-establishment world view.
“Once squatting was maybe a
romantic thing for people to do, but now they have children and jobs. Things
have changed,” Amsterdam city councilman Frank van Dalen said.
days, most squatters are migrants from Eastern and Southern Europe “who want a
cheap place to live,” he said.
Van Dalen is a member of the pro-business
VVD party, which has been a vocal opponent of both squatting and
The VVD will lead the next Dutch coalition government, which
may take office as early as this week.
Backed by the anti-Islam Freedom
Party of Geert Wilders, the new administration is likely to further tighten
restrictions on immigration – particularly from Muslim countries.
squatted building on the Amstel, a former Fire Department office, the squatters
– most from other countries – argue against the perception that they just want a
“The people who are willing to come to a foreign
city, with no place to live – to me these are very valuable people, brave
people,” said Marek Griks, a Polish man who drives a cab part-time and lives at
a different squat with his daughter.
He says squatters bring a positive
and creative impulse to Amsterdam.
A man from Eastern Europe with
dreadlocks known as “Muppet” said squatting will continue long after the ban. In
his six years in Amsterdam, he has stayed as little as 16 hours in one squat and
as long as 2 1/2 years in another.
“I think everything is going to
change. It’s going to become more of a political struggle again.
about living for free,” he said.
Historically, squatting has provided an
alternative to mainstream Dutch lifestyles and acted as a wellspring for leftist
It reached a peak on April 30, 1980, the day of Queen Beatrix’s
accession to the throne.
Thousands of squatters and sympathizers fought
riot police throughout Amsterdam, trying to disrupt her coronation. Their motto:
“No housing, no crowning.”
The economic boom of the 1990s saw an
expansion of construction and signaled the beginning of the movement’s end. For
the past decade, Amsterdam has been emptying squatted buildings at an
Property owners have also found their own ways to
combat squatting, letting “anti-squatters” move into buildings they planned to
leave empty in exchange for extremely low rents and ironclad guarantees to leave
Still, affordable housing remains a huge problem. Van Dalen
says the city now plans to convert unused office buildings into low-rent
housing. Asked if that wasn’t what squatters have always demanded, he said
“There’s a crucial difference between low-rent and free,” he noted.
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