Saudi Arabia is considering trade sanctions against the Netherlands because of stickers printed by right-wing politician Geert Wilders bearing anti-Islam slogans in the colours of Saudi Arabia flag, a Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesperson has revealed. Anti-immigration Freedom Party leader Wilders tied in first place with the Democrats in public opinion polls published before the European Parliament elections to be held in the Netherlands on Thursday. His anti-Islam statements have angered many and he has been living under round the clock protection since he received death threats in 2004.
Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Friso Wijnen said, "We have indications that Saudi Arabia is considering measures because of insults made by Geert Wilders to its flag and religion [Islam]." He did not give details of what those measures might be, but said that the Dutch government is trying to contact Riyadh. The posters appeared for the first time in December.
"The Cabinet distanced itself strongly from Wilders's insults to the Saudi flag and religion in December," added Wijnen. "It still does."
Reuters could not reach Saudi government officials or the Chamber of Commerce for comment. However, Al-Eqtisadiya newspaper quoted unnamed sources on Friday as saying that a directive will be distributed to all relevant authorities to exclude Dutch companies from participating in future projects in the Kingdom and halt mutual visits because of anti-Islamic statements.
Wilders' posters were printed in green and white, similar to the Saudi flag, and carried offensive comments about Islam, Prophet Muhammad and the Qur'an.
The Dutch government said that bilateral trade between the two countries reached about $5bn in 2010 and the Netherlands is one of the largest investors in Saudi Arabia. Investments amounted to nearly 4 per cent of the total foreign direct investment in that year.
In addition to trade in oil and gas, the Netherlands exports a variety of products and technology to the agriculture, machinery, chemical and petrochemical sectors in Saudi Arabia.
In response to the news of possible Saudi sanctions, Wilders said in a statement that the Netherlands "should have boycotted that country a long time ago."