MP's demand names of Dutch politicans possibly bribed by Russia; Tricky, Minister says

THE HAGUE - The Tweede Kamer wants to know as soon as possible whether, and if so, which Dutch politicians have been bribed by Russia. As long as this information is unknown, suspicions will hang over the political parties and the European elections in June, and that is harmful, the parliamentarians agreed in a debate on the Czech Republic's revelation of a Russian disinformation and bribery campaign, NOS reports. 

That’s easier said than done, outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations told the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament. It concerns information from the secret services - the AIVD in this case - and they decide for themselves what they disclose. 

On Thursday, Czech authorities announced that they exposed a pro-Russian disinformation campaign. According to them, Russia was using pro-Russian politicians in several European countries and the news site Voice of Europe to plant questions about Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, sovereignty, and freedom” in people’s minds ahead of the European Elections in June. 

The Czech Republic did not reveal the names of Dutch people involved and does not intend to do so “at the moment,” De Jonge said in the debate. The Dutch intelligence service AIVD is in contact with its counterpart in the Czech Republic. But, the Cabinet and the AIVD do not intend to say what information they have received. 

FvD leader Thierry Baudet and MEP Marcel de Graaff have often given interviews to Voice of Europe. The party is also notoriously reluctant to publish its financial accounts. Much to the Tweede Kamer’s disappointment, Baudet refused to participate in the debate on Tuesday. He said his party was the subject of a witch hunt and called the debate “unworthy” of the Tweede Kamer. “Bickering and speculation that is based on nothing is reserved for the pub or the kitchen table.” 

PVV leader Geert Wilders acknowledged that he and his party are mentioned in suspicions because of his former close ties with the Putin government and Russian parliament. He again denied the allegations and said he is resigned to the fact that nothing will be made public for now. “What we don’t want is to get in the way of the secret services if they possibly want to tackle a corrupt person,” he said in the debate. 

The Tweede Kamer has little choice but to wait and see what the AIVD will reveal. Several parliamentarians made proposals to make the rules on financial donations to political parties stricter. But most don’t think it will stop this kind of bribery. 

The Dutch intelligence services’ processes and methods are all strictly confidential in the interest of national security. The only politicians to receive information about some of their activities are the members of the Stiekem Committee - the parliamentary faction leaders of the five largest parties. Currently that’s Geert Wilders (PVV), Frans Timmermans (GroenLinks-PvdA), Sophie Hermans (VVD), Pieter Omtzigt (NSC), and Jan Paternotte (D66). The word “stiekem” translates to “secret.” 

The information they receive is strictly confidential and may not be shared with the other members of their party or used in parliamentary debates. It is possible that the AIVD informed the Stiekem Committee about Dutch politicians who form part of the Russian disinformation campaign, but the members can’t say anything about it. 

According to NOS, it is for this reason that it has sometimes been suggested that the Stiekem Committee be abolished because what good is information that can’t be used? But the alternative is that no one will know anything about what the intelligence services are doing.