THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Events in the usually peaceful European country of the Netherlands are getting a lot of attention these days.
Riots in Rotterdam recently were sparked by the Dutch government’s blocking of Turkish officials entering Holland to rally expat voters for an upcoming Turkish referendum. Officials here say they did it in the name of security.
Turkish President Erdogan blasted the action. He branded the Dutch “Nazi remnants.” He slapped them with diplomatic sanctions and threatened more.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, campaigning in The Hague before Wednesday’s parliamentary vote, defended his actions to Fox News.
“This depends on Turkey,” he said. “We didn’t seek this fight.”
Some say his bold actions are a response to the tougher talk from the far-right anti-Muslim populist politician Geert Wilders. Positions ranging from closing mosques to blocking Muslim immigrants to the Netherlands leaving the European Union have touched a chord with the Dutch public. Some polls had showed his Freedom party taking a lead in the upcoming vote, making officials here nervous.
“I am absolutely convinced for the Netherlands and for the people,” Rutte told Fox News, “Geert Wilders doesn’t solve the problems.”
His standing has slipped recently. And with other parties refusing to go into coalition with him, he probably won't govern. But he is being felt.
“He has an impact without being in government,” Dutch political reporter Laurens Bowen said. “Because he influences other parties on immigration, on border control, and on refugees.”
The populist message of the man some call the “Dutch Donald Trump” can also be heard in the campaigns of upcoming elections across Europe. Some say it has already been heard…across the pond.
Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on Twitter@GregPalkot.