Dutch FM “regrets” contentious anti-multiculturalism statements

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Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs regrets that he offended people with statements he made about multicultural societies and Suriname during a private meeting with Dutch working at international organizations last week. "I did not choose my words well and I regret that", he said in response to the commotion his remarks caused, NOS reports. 

"Give me an example of a multi-ethnic or multicultural society where the original population still lives (...) and where there is a peaceful society. I don't know of one", he said at the meeting. Blok also said that it is genetically determined that groups of people can not get along with each other. "It's probably somewhere deep in our genes that we want to have a well-organized group to hunt with or to maintain a village with. And that we are not able to connect with people unknown to us." When one of the meeting attendees pointed out that Suriname has a peaceful multicultural society, Blok called the country a "failed state". 

"The debate was about tensions that everyone in the room was observing, about migration, immigration, and how to deal with that as the Netherlands and the world community. I went too far in the discussion and to provoke", Blok said on Wednesday. About his remarks on Suriname, he said: "I should not have used those words, but I want to say that political parties are still very much running along the lines of origin. The term failed state was too sharp."

Blok said that he is prepared to give an explanation to any country that found his remarks offensive. "I will talk to colleagues in other countries and tell them that I should not have used those words."

The Minister's remarks were criticized by both coalition and opposition parties. In a tweet, D66 MP Kees Verhoeven demanded an explanation from Blok "about his incomprehensible statements and his pessimism about the distribution of refugees in Europe and the multicultural society." VVD parliamentarian Han ten Broeke said on Twitter: "No one will claim that Suriname is a model state or that migrants in Eastern European countries are always treated with kindness, but the minister could have made these points with a less clumsy word choice."

PvdA parliamentarian Lilianne Ploumen believes Blok's remarks will have consequences for the Netherlands' position abroad. "After all, many people simply live together in a pleasant way, without running away from problems that might arise. It would therefore be good if the Minister took back his statement."