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Budapest; Hugo Scheltema on thin diplomatic ice

Diplomatic row after Dutch ambassador likens Hungarians to ‘terrorists’

Last month, on 24 August, the Dutch ambassador to Hungary, Hugo Gajus Scheltema, gave an interview to 168 Ora Magazine ahead of his retirement. The interview has caused an uproar in diplomatic circles, unsurprisingly, after Scheltema likened Hungarians to "terrorists".

Published: September 7, 2017, 10:12 am

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    Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Hungary, has threatened to recall the Hungarian ambassador to the Netherlands “for an indefinite period,” together with “political and diplomatic steps” if the Netherlands does not issue a formal apology soon.

    In the interview with 168 Ora, Scheltema claimed the Dutch nation “had no roots” and insulted the Hungarians for actually having roots. “I asked [György Fajcsák] to tell me where the Hungarians came from. The Netherlands have no such roots, for us it is of little importance, but for Hungarians, it is very important.“

    Scheltema’s complete disregard for history and factual knowledge about the Dutch parliamentary set-up is even more surprising.

    “Here [in Hungary] only pro or contra positions are possible, someone is with us, or against us. Classical Marxist worldview.” Hungary famously suffered under Communism. In The Netherlands, moreover, the main parties have all ruled out a coalition with the party of Geert Wilders, the PVV, rubbishing the Dutch ambassador’s claims.

    “In Holland, we always look for a compromise: have a little of this, lose a little of that. There are four or five parties in the governing coalition, each of which has to give and take a little. It may take months of negotiations, but eventually, we find a compromise,” he claimed.

    But contrary to what Scheltema posits, a five party government is an exception in Dutch politics – it happened only twice after 1945, and the first time it failed to fulfill its four year mandate. Since 1977, all Dutch governments have consisted of either two or three parties. What’s more, the reason the Netherlands are now in the fifth month of negotiations to form a new, possibly five party, government, is precisely because those parties are so unwilling to compromise with Wilders.

    Scheltema seemed determined to demonstrate yet further how little he really knows about his own country. On immigration, he proceeded to lecture Hungarians. “There are no migrants in Hungary, it is a homogenous people. In the Netherlands, mainly because of our colonial past, there are many immigrants, we are an open society, we welcome the arrivals.“ But a book by nationalist writer Joost Niemoeller, called Angry and published this year, immediately made it on the bestseller list.

    In Amsterdam, the middle class can no longer afford to live in the city center and the cheaper neighbourhoods where they have moved have been rapidly filling with families from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles, creating huge resentment against migrants as well as the elites.

    “The Netherlands is a segregated society,” a leftist journalist recently told Bloomberg. “It’s not just black vs. white, it’s also higher-educated vs. lower-educated. Because there are no churches, no schools, even no pubs to which to go together.” So much for Scheltema’s “open society”. The Netherlands is in fact an exceptionally segregated country.

    The ambassador continues his ill-informed undiplomatic interview by telling Hungarians that they do not know the country of their birth: “After a lot of excursions I know the country [Hungary] better than many Hungarians today.“

    Scheltema then addressed Islamic terrorism in the context of the jihadist attack in Barcelona: “Here, a group whose members are losers of globalisation, turned to extremism and fanatical religion because it gives them a sense of security. They create an enemy using the same principles as the Hungarian government.“

    In response to the recalling of the Hungarian ambassador to the Netherlands, and the demand for a formal apology, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders (Social Democrats) has claimed he does not want to see this get any bigger than necessary. He distanced himself from the remarks by Scheltema, saying:

    “In no way must impression take hold, that the Hungarian government uses the same methods as terrorism. That is just not right and I distance myself from that.“ But whether or not the Dutch government will formally apologise, remains unclear.

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