"Fear mongering" and "Russia lover": insults fly in debate between right, far right

The leaders of right-wing VVD and far-right FvD debated each other in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening, the eve of the European Parliament elections in the Netherlands on Thursday. The sometimes fierce debate ranged from topics like leaving the euro to FvD leader Thierry Baudet's stance on women and the last time VVD leader Mark Rutte shed a tear. Baudet accused Rutte of "fear mongering" and Rutte called Baudet a "Russia lover", RTL Nieuws reports.

Baudet wanted Rutte to explain why he is prepared, through the euro, to let the Netherlands continue to pay for problems in the south of Europe. The FvD leader wants to leave the monetary union. "The actual cost of the monetary union now is astronomical. If we stay in it, we will continue to pay for those lagging behind for ever", Baudet said. According to Baudet, it is definitely possible to leave the euro behind, the past has shown that. "65 currency unions have been dissolved". 

Rutte agreed that it would be better not to have to carry Greece and Italy, but called leaving the monetary union not a real solution. "Nothing changes if we go to the guilder, we are stuck with the euro", he said. Leaving the monetary union would have serious consequences for Dutch employment, Rutte said. "You take risks with two million Dutch jobs." Baudet called this "fear mongering".

The VVD leader and Prime Minister asked Baudet why he won't face the threat posed by Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. He called Baudet naive in his attitude towards Russia. Baudet said: "In international politics you have no friends or enemies, only interests." According to the FvD leader, those interests are harmed by, for example, sanctions against Russia that affect agriculture and the flower sector. Rutte said Baudet wanted to keep Putin soothed and compared his dealings with Russia to "lovingly petting a lion", according to the broadcaster. He also called Baudet a "Russia lover". 

The debate turned fierce because Baudet refused to agree that Russia was most likely behind the downing of flight MH17. He refused to support a request for clarification from the Russians about the disaster, something supported by almost the entire parliament. "I have my doubts about the investigation by the JIT [the international investigation team investigating the MH17 disaster]. Ukraine is also one of the possible perpetrators of this attack." 

Rutte responded: "About the independence of the investigation? This is the low point of this debate." Almost every time the JIT published some of its findings, Russia quickly responded by questioning the independence of the investigation and pointing the finger to Ukraine. According to Baudet, it is up to the judge to decide who was responsible for the MH17 disaster, and not to politicians to anticipate a verdict.

Baudet asked the VVD leader when he last cried. Rutte said he cried at the death of family members. "I cried when my father died. I cried when my brother died and when my oldest sister died." When asked when the last time was, Rutte answered: "Four years ago."

Rutte asked Baudet where his views on women came from. In the past Baudet said that women excel less and are less ambitious. The FvD also recently wrote an essay in which he blamed the "demographic decline of Europe" on women's emancipation - working women have little to no time to build a family and committed relationship, he said. "Where dit it go wrong?" Rutte wanted to know. Baudet said that he loves women. "Our party is the most woman-friendly in the Netherlands. And women love us too."

The debate caused criticism before it happened because a one-on-one debate on the eve before the election could influence the vote too much. Moreover, the two Hague party leaders are not candidates for the European Parliament, so voters can't vote for them on Thursday.