Interview with Geert Wilders Why Dutch Populists Want to Leave the EU
Could Brexit lead other countries to seek to leave the European Union? SPIEGEL spoke with far-right Dutch populist Geert Wilders about how he wants to use a "Nexit" to prevent the "Islamization" of the Netherlands.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Wilders, Brexit proponents were toasting their victory until recently. Now they have a massive hangover. But on Tuesday, you were still trying to compel the Dutch parliament to vote on the possibility of leaving the European Union. Of course, you suffered a resounding defeat. Are you actually aware of what you're trying to accomplish here?
Wilders: Of course, very well even. The instability we're seeing in England at the moment is only temporary. In the long run, the British will profit, just like we'd profit from leaving the EU.
SPIEGEL: The Netherlands is the world's second-largest exporter of agricultural products. The EU is your country's most important market. What would be the benefit of leaving the bloc?
Wilders: We'd finally get our national sovereignty back, as well as our autonomy in matters of monetary and immigration policy -- just like Switzerland. That's my favorite example: a country in the heart of Europe, that even has individual trade agreements with China and Japan. The British too -- Germany's third-largest trading partner -- will reach an agreement with the EU.
SPIEGEL: Switzerland differs from the Netherlands in that it is a major financial hub first and foremost. And Switzerland, much like the non-EU country Norway, must allow for the free movement of workers in order to be able to trade freely with the EU.
Wilders: Look at why the British wanted this exit! Politicians like Prime Minister David Cameron have lost all sense of reality. The people have seen how billions were spent on Greece and Turkey, on deals with Erdogan or for asylum seekers.
SPIEGEL: The reality in England is that politicians there have no plan at the moment for getting out of this misery and delivering what they promised. Many citizens feel cheated by false figures and promises.
Wilders: I haven't promised anything for the future. Instead, I have said what I would have done differently in the past. My party's supporters have seen how European political leaders are allowing asylum seekers and migrants to come to us and how they're spending billions of euros on them. In Dubai, the police drive Lamborghinis. These countries aren't poor. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states should take care of these people. They're closer, have the same religion, the same climate, the same culture. That's how I would have solved this.
SPIEGEL: Syria's neighbors are already accommodating millions of refugees, and we live in a globalized world. Do you just want to isolate yourself?
Wilders: I believe just like you do that these people should find protection. But we can't take any more. For me, the asylum seekers here aren't refugees. They came through six or seven safe countries. According to the Dublin regulations, they must stay in the first safe country they reach.
SPIEGEL: The Netherlands took in around 43,000 refugees last year. Is that really too many for a country of 17 million people?
Wilders: Whether you like it or not -- I want to close the Dutch borders. My constituents don't want more refugees. I'm not ashamed to represent these voters. I'm proud of it.
SPIEGEL: Were the Netherlands ever to leave the EU, how would you settle the country's debt? Imagine if the Netherlands -- like Great Britain now -- were to lose the highest credit rating and see interest rates skyrocket.
Wilders: That's exactly the problem: The European Central Bank in Frankfurt with its idiotic zero interest rate policy. By doing so, the banks have slashed our pensions, and this concept is toxic for our economy. We want to determine our own monetary policy.
SPIEGEL: No country can decouple its monetary policy from the global market.
Wilders: The Swiss can, the Norwegians too. Why not us? Whether we then follow the Germans economically or another country remains to be seen. I'm not like the Brexiteers. I don't deny that we have to permit immigration and the right of establishment for capital and services. I also don't have a problem with people from Slovakia and Lithuania. But I do have a problem with immigration from Islamic countries. The EU leaves us no freedom to determine our own immigration and asylum laws. That's why leaving the EU is necessary.
SPIEGEL: What currency would you like to use after you leave the euro zone? The yen, perhaps?
Wilders: You only see things in a negative light. We could reintroduce the guilder. That would create costs for two years, but would bring advantages starting with the third year. That is according to one of our studies carried out by a serious economic institution. We could still follow the euro. There are a lot of possibilities.
SPIEGEL: You really intend to seal off the Dutch borders?
Wilders: May I quote another study from a Dutch university that was produced long before the refugee crisis? It says that immigration from non-Western immigrants costs our state 7.2 billion annually, much more than closing the borders and visa limitations would.
SPIEGEL: How do you intend to keep open Europe's largest port, Rotterdam, while at the same time keeping out people that you don't want in the country but who have a valid visa for another European country?
Wilders: I don't have anything against Canadians or Australians. But we will make the decision as to who we want to allow into our country and who we will outlaw. We wouldn't have to accept people from Portugal any more, for example, if the Portuguese continue giving refugees from Somalia a visa for the Schengen area.
SPIEGEL: What would happen with the roughly 850,000 Muslims who already live in the Netherlands?
Wilders: It's already a million Muslims! As long as they obey the law and respect the constitution, nobody has anything to fear. They can stay and they have the same rights and the opportunity for a fantastic life in Holland. But when somebody has dual citizenship and commits a crime, his Dutch passport should be revoked and he should be deported to the other country, even if he was born here. If we were to set an example with the Moroccans, for example, it would have an enormous effect. Eighty percent of those people with a passport from the Netherlands who go to Syria as jihadists are actually Moroccans.
SPIEGEL: To detect extremists in your own country, you need to cooperate with international security agencies, including those in the European Union. Or do you intend to solve the problem of Dutch terror suspects alone?
Wilders: You can remain friends, even without EU membership. The Prüm Convention, according to which data for combatting crime is exchanged, is a good example of international cooperation.
SPIEGEL: You claim that Islam has declared war on the West. In actuality, it is the terror groups al-Qaida and Islamic State that have done so. Most of the 1.6 billion Muslims view the extremists in Syria and Iraq as barbarians and enemies, just like we do. Why are you intent on criminalizing an entire faith?
Wilders: What you say isn't true. Studies from universities in Holland and Berlin confirm that 80 percent of Muslims in the Netherlands believe it is a heroic deed to travel to Syria as a fighter. A university in Amsterdam reports that 11 percent of Muslims are prepared to use violence against non-Muslims and against Muslims. I have travelled a great deal -- to Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt -- and can very well differentiate between moderate Muslims and Islam. Islam is not a religion, but an imperialist ideology like communism or fascism.
SPIEGEL: The Bible is no less violent of a book than the Koran.
Wilders: The differences are immense! I could talk about them for hours. Once again, whether you like it or not: Islam wants to destroy us and I want to prevent it. That's why I founded my party and it has the support of 25 percent of voters according to surveys. I will not stop fighting against Islam until I have achieved freedom for our country.