Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated some Dutch-language material about the culturally enriched kerfuffle over this incident. First, from last month’s AD.nl:
Verhagen furious about Morocco trip of Aboutaleb
By Gijs Korevaar and Antti Liukku
DEN HAAG / ROTTERDAM — Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has been discredited due to a visit last week to his native country Morocco. He has brought upon himself the fury of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen (CDA, Christian Democrats).
According to Verhagen, Aboutaleb exceeded his powers by discussing on his own initiative such delicate issues as dual citizenship and family law with the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“Exceptionally inappropriate and unwise,” said Verhagen. “The Minister of Justice and I have been there recently and have stated the Dutch position clearly.’’
Verhagen has asked his PvdA [Socialists] colleague Ter Horst (Home Affairs) to call Aboutaleb to order. The public attack by Verhagen is very unusual. Ter Horst did not comment yesterday.
In Rotterdam the same barely announced visit led to other political problems. Due to the trip to Morocco, the mayor missed the important Veterans’ Day and thereby hurt many veterans. That led to questions (in Parliament) by the PVV and (in the municipal council) by Livable Rotterdam. They wanted to know exactly what Aboutaleb had been doing in Morocco.
The mayor is said to understand little of all the commotion. “At the request of Livable Rotterdam during my trip, I transferred the feelings coming from Rotterdam, including the issue of the name lists for children. I also have done no more than stress the position of the Government.’’
A correspondence with Verhagen preceded the visit of Aboutaleb. Verhagen protested against the meeting with the Moroccan Minister. “I said: we will not co-operate with it,” Verhagen stated. “Such a conversation is not the responsibility of a mayor. Aboutaleb in advance at least gave the impression that the meeting would not take place.’’
The Rotterdam mayor is not aware of anything wrong. “I made clear to the minister that the visit was not official, but a courtesy call. After that I heard nothing from him and I assumed that matter had cooled down.’’
Concerning the following articles, VH gives this background:
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The Dutch press overlooked this, but I personally think the following might have had something to do with that “sudden” Morocco trip. As far as I know, Aboutaleb is still a member of the High Council in Morocco, and maybe there was a meeting planned or he was called to come over to Morocco for this, for he cancelled quite a few appointments to be able to suddenly go to Morocco.
From NRC Handelsblad:
[June 2000] The tension between him [Aboutaleb] and some Moroccans came last year to an eruption when Aboutaleb became a member of the Moroccan Supreme Council for Economic Planning and Development, which advises the government in Morocco. The Moroccan government has a sometimes dubious tradition of keeping an eye on its nationals in Europe. Hence this step did not go down well with the Moroccan community in the Netherlands. [emphasis added]
From De Volkskrant:
[June 3, 2000] Mr. Aboutaleb, since his appointment as director of Forum, has constantly been busy on behalf of the Moroccan government. Beginning in May, as a director of Forum, he organized a meeting between the President of the Foundation Hassan II, Azziman, who is also the Minister of Justice of Morocco, with the Moroccan cadres in the Netherlands. The appointment of Aboutaleb in this highly important Council seems to be a reward for these efforts. His claim that the appointment surprised him is not applicable here.
With his appointment to a high government state-institution, the loyalty of Moroccan director Ahmed Aboutaleb of the Institute Forum came into question. Halim el Madkouri advised him to make a choice. A few days ago, De Volkskrant reported on the appointment of Ahmed Aboutaleb — Director of the [Dutch] Forum Institute for Multicultural Development — to the Moroccan High Council for Social Development and Planning. This appointment has led to many reactions in the Moroccan community, but also in Dutch institutions that work directly or indirectly with Forum. Many Moroccans felt fooled by this carefully kept secret appointment. […] Aboutaleb was appointed to the High Council as a representative of Moroccans in the Netherlands. Representatives of Moroccan migrants in Europe (there are three) have a special role in the Council. Migration matters have been declared a sovereignty issue by the late King Hassan II. This means that decisions surrounding migration issues are a personal matter to the king. [emphasis added]
And extra detail on the recent controversial trip, from AD.nl:
Virtually no one knew anything about Aboutaleb’s Morocco trip. Only the Rotterdam aldermen, the [Dutch] embassy in Rabat and a few officials that had to set up meetings with the right people. The watchword was ‘mouth shut’. Even officials of the Department of International Relations did not know exactly what was going on. Why all the secrecy?
And in between there was still this: “in Rabat Aboutaleb claimed to have had talks with the Ministers of Foreign and Religious Affairs. The importance had been mutually stressed of a good information exchange on legal and other measures that touch the Moroccan-Dutch community in Rotterdam, such as family law.”
And this last sentence was what went down the wrong way with Minister Maxime Verhagen. Without ministerial permission, Aboutaleb would never have been allowed to do this. [emphasis added]