March 20th was not only the day of the provincial elections for the Dutch electorate, but also the moment of truth for Victor Orban’s party ‘Fidesz’ in the European People’s Party (EPP). While official exclusion was looming, Fidesz was ultimately suspended. As a member of the EPP, Wim van de Camp explains why he voted in favour of suspension and provides us with his vision on the provincial elections.
Last Wednesday we had the provincial elections and the Christian Democratic party (CDA) lowered from twelve to nine seats. What is your take on this?
“It is mostly due to Thierry Baudet and his party Forum for Democracy (FvD). Within the Netherlands we see a movement that is poised against the elite. A strong resentment against the established order, the rise of nationalism and a part of the country that is struggling to make ends meet. Hence, they look to Baudet as the new Messiah.”
Not unlike Pim Fortuyn who made a landslide victory back in 2002?
“Precisely! What has to be noted though, this year we saw a 12% increase in turnouts compared to the previous election. And as you can understand, that makes the heart of a representative roar with satisfaction! Whether it is Baudet people vote for or someone else, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that people get up and vote!”
For over the last two years we have seen the FvD mainly targeting the migration policy of the conservative-liberal party (VVD) and the CDA. In fact, last Tuesday Baudet drew parallels between the assault in Utrecht and the migration policy of both aforementioned parties at a party conference. Where is the reply of the CDA in all of this?
“Criticizing my own party is not something I do via the press, but always through official party channels. Concerning the parallel made by Baudet, if it turns out the assault has nothing to do with terrorism or Islam, then he will be caught with his trousers down. But no doubt he will be able to conjure up some populist ploy if it should come to that. The notion that both VVD and CDA have opened the floodgates to migration is not true. As a matter of fact, I think that Sybrand Buma is rather adamant with respect to migration. Poland is a good example. Buma constantly pours scorn over Polish labourers, while we have enormous trouble filling the vacancies.”
In 2010 the CDA plummeted from 41 to 13 seats as a result of the tenuous collaboration with the Party of Freedom (PVV), after which it took a step back to recuperate. After nine years the party has warmed up to the voters and Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge (CDA), has even given his blessing to a potential, future coalition with, not only the PVV, but also the FvD. Dirk Jan Eppink has been put forward by FvD as the lead candidate for the upcoming European elections. Do you exclude any future collaboration outright with the FvD in the European parliament?
“No. When it comes to that, I am a true Machiavellian. The best way to turn populists around, is by working with them.”
Which resulted in the greatest, single loss of the party in its entire history.
“Certainly, but it also became clear Geert Wilders could not handle proper responsibilities and ever since the PVV has gone downhill. You can’t expect to merely shout in opposition and then walk away when you are about to be in government. I will have it said though, I think it is rather arrogant of the established order to exclude populists parties. It will only exacerbate populism even further.”
As a Member of the European Parliament, Judith Sargentini published her report on the state of Hungary as a member of the European Union last September. Shortly after which a majority of the European Parliament, including yourself, voted in favour of initiating the so-called ‘article 7-procedure’, by which a member state can be reprimanded for undermining agreed-upon democratic values. Last Wednesday you and the EPP reached the conclusion to officially suspend Fidesz. Given the contentious situation between the EU and Hungary, wouldn’t it have been far better to exclude Fidesz and thereby given a clear signal the EU does not think lightly of its own values?
“I understand the motive behind your question, but no. We need to find the balance between Orban who doesn’t give a fig about European values and the arrogance of the West. Right now Hungary is saying: listen, for over fifty years we have lived under the communist yoke and thereby inherited a society that is rotten to its very core. Hierarchy and autocratic leadership are still highly thought of. Somewhat reminiscent of the days of Empire. Over here in the Netherlands we are looking at a bunch of unruly Lutherans. Hungary however is still in the process of ‘wendung’, as the Germans tend to say, while you in the West are constantly calling us down. That very balance, that is what we have to look for right now and you can’t do that with Orban.”
Is the West guilty of misplaced arrogance with respect to Hungary?
“It is more than just of the West to address Hungary on this issue. But, its propensity to deny any other interpretation of European values, after all we are not willing to allow Central -and Eastern-Europe to embrace those values, that I find to be exceedingly arrogant.”
Doesn’t the EU lose its credibility abroad by doing so? Why would a country such as China listen to criticism voiced by the EU concerning the brutal internalisation of its Uighur minority, while we have a member state who doesn’t live by the values it claims to uphold?
“I think your way of thinking is somewhat skewered by the article-7 procedure. When it comes to asylum policy, Hungary doesn’t have the freedom to say ‘we’re going to look the other way.’ If they were to do so, than they would undermine the EU from within. Don’t forget, Orban had a very strong argument last Wednesday. He reminded the EPP of the EU-doctrine of protecting the outer borders of Europe. That is his responsibility.”
Yet it is Orban who fosters extreme ideologies. In his speech of March 15, 2018, Orban advocated for the ‘Great Replacement’. An ideology envisaged by Renaud Camus, by which he argues for a clandestine plot among the European elite who supposedly are out to Islamise the continent. Anders Breivik was the first zealot who introduced this ideology to the West in practice, but Brandon Tarrant did so quite recently when he published his manifesto right before he carried out his terrorist attack in Christchurch. Though Orban himself doesn’t support or call for terrorist attacks, isn’t it extremely dangerous of him to propagate this ideology?
“I am going to answer your question with a question. How many people in the Netherlands would you say are concerned about ‘being replaced’.”
I wouldn’t say that many people in the Netherlands believe the theory of Renaud Camus
“Even though there a great many people in the Netherlands who, to put it mildly, are concerned about ‘overpopulation’. Specifically by people with an Islamic background. That is a deeply rooted fear among many Dutch citizens, channelled quite properly by politicians such as Baudet. The fact that the ideology results in terrorist attacks is naturally profoundly terrifying to behold. Orban abuses this ideology, but the overarching theme is something I will not look away from. I share the voiced concerns about the multicultural society, but make no mistake about it: we are living in a multicultural society. Period!”
Concerning fear, last Wednesday a Senegalese man in Italy attempted to set fire to a bus with fifty children still inside, out of anger of refugees and migrants drowning in the Mediterranean. Taken this into consideration, wouldn’t you say that controlling the flow of migrants and refugees is the key solution for the EU to safeguard its future?
Yes! It is imperative to include the history of migration when talking about this. It is we ourselves who have recruited people from outside of Europe, the so-called guest labourers. Now it is crucial to grasp the nettle. This is why the EU is revising its Africa-policy, to channel billions of euros into agriculture and education in Sub-Sahara Africa. Yet, the world can be a difficult place for all of us and we simply have to wear it on the chin. Our population is aging rapidly and if we wish to uphold the same quality of lifestyle, than we will need labourers outside of Europe to maintain it.