Life in Belgium is “unbearable,” according to the Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok. Blok, head of the neighbouring nation’s diplomatic service, was speaking at a private event. He has since expressed regret and withdrawn his comments.
The speech was made last month in The Hague to a group of people who work for international institutions, many of which, from the main EU institutions to Eurocontrol, Nato and Shape, are based in Belgium.
Belgium, like Switzerland, was suffering from a wave of multiculturalism, migration, xenophobia and the rise of populist political parties, he claimed. One of the most prominent of those, as it happens, is the PVV of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. Blok said he was “unaware of any multicultural country in the world where people live peacefully with each other”.
Blok made his mea culpa via a spokesperson. “I used wording that was unfortunate and improper,” he said. “I apologise, and take back those words. I ought never to have expressed those ideas, and certainly not in my capacity as minister of foreign affairs.”
This is not the first time Blok has expressed controversial ideas. In July he was again speaking at a private event, but was being secretly filmed, and the take shortly made its way to the Dutch media.
On this occasion, Blok sent an apology to the Dutch parliament, and offered his excuses to the countries that may have felt insulted by his remarks. No formal approach has been made to Belgium, a spokesperson for Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said: the matter was considered closed with the Dutch minister’s apology.