U.S. Ambassador To Netherlands Accused of 'Interference' With Dutch Elections Over Far-Right Party 'Fundraising' Event

Pete Hoekstra, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, has been accused of taking part in a fundraising event at The Hague for the far-right Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy) earlier this month.

The event at the American embassy at John Adams Park in Wassenaar on September 10 was reported by the Dutch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer as featuring a guest list of around 30 to 40 "party leaders supplemented by wealthy entrepreneurs" and hosted by Hoekstra.

Guests at the night for Thierry Baudet's anti-immigration party FvD reportedly received an email stating they can join the embassy "at the invitation of Forum for Democracy and Pete Hoekstra" and any further questions can be sent to Joyce Vastenhouw, the political party's head of fundraising.

Dutch parties are now demanding to know why Hoekstra was at the event and raised fears that it was in violation of the Vienna Convention, which states foreign diplomats should not interfere in a host nation's politics.

"Of course this should not have happened," Bram van Ojik, member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the GroenLinks party, told NOS. "This is interference in our elections."

Sven Koopmans, of the VVD party, said reports that the event was to raise money for the party need to be addressed.

"A fundraising event at the embassy is something else and not desirable," he told NOS.

The embassy have denied suggestions that the night amounted to a fundraiser event for the party, describing it as a "town hall" with a question and answer session hosted by Hoekstra.

Speaking to Dutch News, a spokesman added that the embassy regularly holds events with political parties as part of its "wish to establish dialogue with people and parties with a range of views."

Dutch politician Wybren van Haga, who joined FvD after being kicked out of the ruling People's Party for Freedom and Democracy party (VVD), was among the guests that night. He described the event as more of a network meeting among the party's "inner circle."

One unnamed entrepreneur who was in attendance told De Groene it was "certainly not a town hall meeting... it was more of an informal kick-off for the election campaign."

Alan Henrikson, professor of the history of international relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told De Groene that speaking at a political event is a "clear identification with a party" which is "inappropriate" for a diplomat such as Hoekstra.

This is not the first time Hoekstra has been associated with FvD. In May, he was interviewed by leader Baudet for the party's own video channel and was also a guest speaker at the party's conference last November.

Having been founded in 2016, the FvD pulled off a shock result in 2019 after winning the most votes in the Netherlands' provincial election, achieving 12 seats and becoming the largest party in the country's upper house of parliament.

The election took place two days after three people were killed in a terrorist attack on a tram in the city of Utrecht by a Turkish man.

Baudet blamed Prime Minister Mark Rutte's immigration policy for the attack just hours after it occurred.

In his speech following the election results, Baudet, an advocate of President Donald Trump, told his supporters that the country is being "destroyed by the people who are supposed to be protecting us."

"Successive Rutte governments have left our borders wide open, letting in hundreds of thousands of people with cultures completely different to ours," he added.

The U.S. embassy in Wassenaar and FvD have been contacted for further comment.

Pete Hoekstra
U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra attends the Memorial Day ceremony at the Margraten American Cemetery, in Margraten, the Netherlands, on May 24, 2020. Hoekstra has been accused of hosting a fundraising event at The Hague for the Dutch far-right party Forum for Democracy. PATRICK VAN KATWIJK/ANP/AFP/Getty