Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Dutch get tough

Source: Wall Street Journal Europe

Netherlands takes over the EU presidency on July 1 and already the Dutch government is beginning to flex its muscles. (They always do that before they take over the presidency.) It is demanding tough EU-wide immigration laws that would expel unsuccessful asylum seekers and send illegal immigrant packing. They are particularly worried that there will be many of both kinds coming in through the new member states.

The Dutch government itself has introduced very tough rules, presumably, in the wake of serious political discontent that resulted in Pim Fortuyn’s popularity and subsequent murder. The price of the residence card has been increased something like seven-fold; there are mandatory Dutch language courses for immigrants; Dutch citizens who bring in spouses from outside the EU have to prove joint annual salary in excess of double the minimum wage; and, rather boldly, a new law says that Muslim imams take a special course in Dutch values such as tolerance, especially towards women and homosexuals. It does not seem to occur to the Dutch government that they could not have passed any of these laws if they really had to wait for the EU to demand a harmonization of legislation.

But Gerrit Zalm the Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister also mentioned the painful subject of the week: levels of business taxation. He has called for an EU-wide minimum of 20%, which would be higher than corporate business tax is in the new member states.

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