Populist leader Geert Wilders has stood on an anti-migration platform
The anti-Islam politician said the remarks by Federica Mogherini, Brussels’ effective foreign minister, showed that his country must leave the EU after its elections in March.
In an interview the Italian eurocrat said it was an “illusion” that immigration can be significantly reduced and argued Europe’s ageing population means it would sink without the arrival of young migrants.
Mr Wilders, whose stance on immigration is highly controversial, has been leading the polls in the Netherlands for some time and is expected to lead the largest party in its parliament come April.
However, more centrist parties have already said they will refuse to work with him even if his PVV party wins by a significant margin, meaning its chances of forming a coalition are slim.
He is leading Dutch PM Mark Rutte, bottom right, in the polls
Federica Mogherini said EU societies would 'collapse' without young migrants
Taking to Twitter the populist leader accused Ms Mogherini of “saying on behalf of the EU that ‘Europe will collapse without immigration from the Islamic world and Africa’”.
The eurosceptic, who has vowed to pull his country out of the bloc if he gains power, signed off the tweet with the hashtag “Nexit” – standing for Netherlands exit.
In fact Ms Mogherini did not specify which part of the world she thought migrants to the EU should come from or which religion they should hold.
However, she did say it was “unfortunate” that refugees from Eritrea – whose population is roughly half Christian, half Muslim – were apparently discriminated against when arriving in Europe.
The vast majority of migration to the bloc within the last two years, both in terms of genuine refugees and economic migrants, has been from majority Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
In an interview with Italian paper Correire Della Sera she said: “In our countries, there often prevails the illusion that migration is stoppable. Impossible.
“Besides, with no immigrants the European economy would be paralysed and our demographics would lead us to collapse. It would cause the collapse of our societies.”
Ms Mogherini called for an “academic study” to be commissioned by the EU into the costs of significantly reducing immigration, adding that people advocating completely closing borders were chasing a “false belief”.
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Instead she said the issue at stake was "controlling" high levels of immigration, and accused certain EU states of failing to act on border control and then blaming Brussels when voters turned against them.
And asked how officials determine between genuine refugees and economic migrants, she added: “It's what we want to do. But this means that if you're an Eritrean seeking international asylum, Europe must welcome you. Unfortunately it does not always happen that way.”
The most recent opinion polls have put Mr Wilders’ party on around 21 per cent, way ahead of prime minister Mark Rutte’s ruling conservatives, who stand on 15 per cent.
Last year the controversial anti-Islam leader was put on trial and found guilty of hate speech against Moroccans after saying the Netherlands should allow fewer people from the North African country in.