Tuesday

18th Sep 2018

Interview

Dutch PM: Islamic State can't change our way of life

  • Rutte: 'We are more people than they are and we have an older civilisation. We should not be scared' (Photo: Minister-president Rutte)

Mark Rutte, the Dutch leader, was at home on the evening of 13 November when his counter-terrorism chief called with news of the Islamic State attack in Paris.

“I got the message that something terrible was taking place,” he told reporters in The Hague on Wednesday (25 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Rutte with EU Council chief Donald Tusk: 'I’ve never been part of that group of people which sleeps with the European flag' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

He said it touched him because he could imagine himself in the victims’ place.

“This was very close to people’s daily lives … I was at home this time. But I could have been with friends at a concert, or I could have been eating out somehere in The Hague.”

“My first thought, or, let’s say, after half an hour, when I started to grasp the sheer depth of the crisis … was to make sure we’ve taken all the steps we can [to prevent a similar attack] here,” he noted.

“My second thought was France, and offering all out support.”

“Thirdly, my main thought, was that, yes, we should be vigilant, but at the same time, we should continue our way of life. We are more people than they are and we have an older civilisation. We should not be scared,” he added.

“I mean that Europe is a democracy and has freedom of speech, freedom for people to decide who governs them, the fact that, black or white, gay or not, we’re all parts of society and have equal rights. These are fundamental values we should cherish.”

EU priorities

The Dutch PM, a 48-year old Liberal, will, from 1 January, help set the EU agenda when The Netherlands takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency.

His top priorties are to prevent other terrorist attacks and to “stem the flow of migrants”.

He said about 40 Dutch jihadists have returned from Syria and that he “cannot guarantee” that a Paris-type attack won’t happen in his country.

But he dismissed the idea of creating an EU intelligence service, because, he says, existing ways of information sharing work well.

“Our services … are working very closely with their sisters and brothers in their services in the European Union. A lot has improved there in the past three or four years.”

He added “there’s a risk” that terrorists could enter the EU posing as refugees.

He said Dutch services spend the first two days after an asylum seeker arrives on terrorist screening.

He also said Dutch society is a model in terms of migrant integration, noting that the mayor of Rotterdam, a Moroccan-born immigrant, is currently the most popular politician in the country.

He warned against combining jihadism and refugees to make "one big soup," in the manner of Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders.

He also said Dutch voters, as well as voters in other EU states, are unlikely to swing to populist parties if authorities deliver on security.

No more migrants

Rutte echoed French PM Manuel Valls in saying the EU cannot take in more migrants, however.

He also echoed the Dutch EU commissioner, Frans Timmermans, in saying the refugee crisis is an existential threat for the Union.

“We need to stem the flow of migrants coming to Europe. We can’t continue at the present level,” the PM said.

“The first step is to make sure the border is controlled. As we all know from the history of the Roman Empire, empires fall when borders aren’t well protected.”

Rutte said he’s short of housing for asylum seekers, with Dutch agencies now using containers and empty office space for homes.

Speaking ahead of the EU-Turkey summit on Sunday, he said the EU must get Turkey to “limit the numbers, moving in the direction of zero” of people coming to Greece.

He said he’s “reasonably optimistic” of a deal, which involves a €3 billion EU fund, including €70 million from The Netherlands, for Turkish refugee camps.

He also predicted that countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia will be happier to join the EU migrant relocation scheme if borders are secure.

But he noted the Turkey summit is unlikely to be the last step in the process: “It’s not like you close a deal on Sunday, and on Monday everything is solved.”

A very British disdain

Meanwhile, the next EU summit, in December, was supposed to tackle Britain's demands for EU reform ahead of its in/out referendum.

But with terrorism and refugees now top of the to-do list, Rutte said: “I’m not sure whether we’ll get to a conclusion [on UK demands].”

He said British PM David Cameron’s trickiest proposals are to curb welfare for EU migrants and to ringfence the City of London from eurozone decisions.

But he said The Netherlands has a special interest in keeping Britain in the EU because they see eye-to-eye on what the Union should be.

Rutte described himself as being pro-European, but for pragmatic, rather than ideological reasons.

Looking back to the banking crisis, he said: “If we’d still had the guilder in 2008, I think speculation would have killed our economy. One of the reasons we pulled through, while having a banking sector six times the size of our economy … is because we were part of the euro.”

He added, however: “I never personally got motivated by this idea of a European ideal … I’ve never been part of that group of people which sleeps with the European flag with stars on it.”

Asked if the EU budget for 2014 to 2020 should go up to pay for refugees, the Dutch PM voiced a very British disdain for the way the EU spends its money.

“We don’t want to increase the budget,” he said. “We’re still spending €300 billion, or €250 billion, on farms in France or whatever, so there’s a lot of scope within the budget, to be frank, for a better deal.”

In Paris under shock, all feel attacked

In the wake of the terror attacks that killed at least 129 people Friday, Parisians pay homage to the dead and, 10 months after the January killings, wonder what will come next.

Investigation

Few, but fanatics: The Kosovo women who join IS

In a generational shift in Kosovo, a largely secular and pro-Western society, Islamic radicalisation is making inroads. And it’s not just young men who join Islamic State.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  2. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  3. New book: Why war is coming
  4. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  5. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  6. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  7. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  8. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us