At a recent gathering of Dutch employees of international organisations in The Hague, Blok said that diversity breeds conflict. Blok’s comments were aired on the Dutch television program Zembla on Wednesday.
“Give me an example of a multiethnic, multicultural society, where the indigenous population still live … where they live in a peaceful, societal union,” Blok said, according to Reuters. “I don’t know of any.”“
Blok continued: “Walk along any street in Warsaw or Prague. There are no colored people. These people are gone within a week, they get beaten to a pulp. They have no life there. I don’t think we are going to manage to force through an agreement at a central European level that every country will take the same number of refugees. Eastern Europeans will never agree.”
According to the minister it may be fun to visit a “Turkish bakery on Sunday” if you live in a rich neighbourhood, but a “number of side effects” stand out in a migrant-populated area. “You very quickly reach the limits of what a society can take,” Blok said.
The audience cited Suriname, a former Dutch colony, as an “example” of peaceful coexistence, but Blok contradicted them. “I admire your optimism, but Suriname is a failed state and that is very much linked to its ethnic composition,” Blok replied.
He added that human beings “somewhere deep in our genes” want “a defined group” even if such defined groups are not obvious from an outside perspective. “I can’t see the difference between a Hutu and a Tutsi, nor between a Sunni or a Shiite,” he said. “Unfortunately, they can.”
Suriname, in South America, is a mix of the descendants of Asian indentured workers, African slaves and indigenous peoples, according to Reuters. The country gained its independence from the Dutch in 1975.
Robby Makka, Dutch economic analyst and Surinamese, says Suriname is rather a failed government. “The state has not failed, because Suriname is indeed a constitutional state.”
But because of this “failed government”, the economy is a mess under the rule of Desi Bouterse, says Makka. Bouterse however was democratically elected.
“One big mess, numbers do not add up.” According to Makka, the economy is constantly being “crushed” by Bouterse and his government. Makka fears that the economic situation in the country is worse than most think. “There is a huge debt mountain, and no good relationships between economic institutions.
The governance situation in Suriname, is not much better, Makka believes. “There is no administrative vision, and if there is, they make a mess of it.” In addition, according to Makka, most of the appointments stem from nepotism.
Political indignation followed Blok’s assertions. Labour MPs now calling for parliament to be recalled for a debate.
“The job of a foreign minister is to maintain diplomatic relations,” Kees Verhoeven, a member of the house of representatives, claimed in an open letter, denouncing the comments as “incomprehensible”.
The Financieele Dagblad said Blok’s words contradict the position taken on the government’s own website to promote foreign trade. “As one of the world’s most multicultural hubs for creative talent, Holland is, simply put, a great place to bring ideas to life,” the website for the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency states, before going on to praise the “exceptional quality of life”.
In the Volkskrant, former VVD parliamentarian Arend Jan Boekesteijn argues damage has been done by Blok to the Netherlands and its image abroad. “Blok would appear to have embraced the integration pessimism of the PVV,” Boekesteijn said.
The Dutch employers organisation VNO-NCW declined to comment on the potential impact of Blok’s words. This, some complained, is in sharp contrast to words by the previous VNO-NCW chief who was quick to condemn statements by PVV leader Geert Wilders because of the alleged “damage” they could do to the image of the Netherlands abroad.
Blok has meanwhile refused to apologise. When asked, he told Zembla: “My contribution during the question and answer session of the meeting was aimed in part at sparking a reaction from the audience. During the closed meeting, I used illustrations that could come across as badly chosen in public debate.”
The government of Curaçao has meanwhile issued a statement distancing itself from the comments, since Blok also speaks on behalf of the Caribbean part of the Netherlands. “The government cannot accept in any way these comments which strike at the very heart of the multicultural Curaçao society,” the statement said. “It is our diversity which makes us powerful.”