Dutch nationalist Wilders lashes out against Ukrainian refugees

By Thomson Reuters Feb 19, 2024 | 7:02 AM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch far right leader Geert Wilders, who won the most seats in an election three months ago but has so far failed to form a new coalition government, said on Monday the Netherlands was “Europe’s fool” for accepting too many Ukrainian refugees.

Wilders opposes continuing military aid to Ukraine, arguing that the Netherlands needs to keep its weapons to defend itself. The position is one of several issues dividing his far right Freedom Party (PVV) from potential coalition partners.

“Ukrainians are coming to the Netherlands in droves, not because of the war, but for free housing, free care and our jobs,” Wilders said in a post on X. “Once again, we are Europe’s fool.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte said this weekend that Dutch support for Ukraine was guaranteed for the long term, as Wilders would not be able to find any coalition partner willing to support his aim of cutting it.

Wilders, in his post, responded to an article in Dutch daily Telegraaf, which quoted the Dutch central registration facility for Ukrainian refugees as saying it was reaching capacity.

A local official told the newspaper this was mainly due to an influx of Ukrainian men coming from other EU member states in search of a job, medical care or to reunite with family.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago more than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine have come to the Netherlands.

Under a temporary EU protection mechanism, Ukrainian refugees have the right to travel through the EU to live and work in any member state until at least March 2025.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer)