Brussels Police Halt Hard-Right Conference: Orbán, Farage, and Braverman Denied Platform

Sarhan Basem
Credit: "Remember to give credit: Euronews"

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Police shut down the National Conservatism Conference featuring Orbán, Farage, and Braverman, citing public safety concerns. Event organizers contest the decision, sparking political controversy over freedom of assembly.

Brussels police shut down a hard-right, nationalist assemblage featuring Orbán, Farage and Braverman. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, French far-right candidate Eric Zemmour and former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki were all due to talk at the two-day National Conservatism (NatCon) Conference in Brussels, which had laboured to secure a platform willing to host them in the capital.

According to Euronews, Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage was preaching to the crowds at the Claridge venue in the Belgian capital when Brussels police came with an order to close down the event near 12.30 CET on Tuesday.

The Polic officer said that he had a three-page document summarising the authorities’ decision to order the shutdown, following a recommendation from the local mayor. However, the event organisers did not immediately decide to sign the order or bring the event to a close. The UK’s former Home Secretary Suella Braverman preached to the audience after police arrived at the scene.

Was Public Safety Justification for Event Closure?

Emir Kir, the mayor of the Saint-Josse Ten Noode neighbourhood of Brussels, confirmed that he had administered the order to halt the event to “guarantee public safety.” “The far right is not welcome,” Kir stated.

Did NatCon’s Speakers Pose a Genuine Threat?

Two other Brussels venues, including the well-known Sofitel Hotel near the EU institutions, had in recent days declined to host the NatCon conference, raising suspicions over whether the event could go ahead as originally scheduled. The mayor of the Etterbeek neighbourhood, Vincent de Wolf, had warned the Sofitel Hotel hours before the event was indicated to take place at the venue about the lecturers and the nature of the gathering, sparking a last-minute decision to break the contract.

Nigel Farage described the crowds that the decisions to withdraw were “absolutely outrageous.” According to the organisers, some 600 attendees were predicted to attend the occasion. The debacle arrives less than two months ahead of the European elections, with polls indicating a sharp rise in backing for hard-right and Eurosceptic parties. 

Was Brussels’ Action a Blow to Democracy?

Reacting to the police’s intervention on Tuesday, National Conservatism stated that the conference was “extremely peaceful” with “absolutely no public disturbance.” They also developed an invitation to Saint Josse’s mayor Emir Kir to join the conversations. Kir represented Belgium’s Socialist Party (PS) before he was removed in 2020 following a controversial discussion with a delegation of Turkish mayors which included delegates from the ultra-nationalist, far-right MHP party.

Did Event Cancellation Violate Freedom of Speech?

Belgian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Tom Vandendriessche – who was due to take a role in the NatCon conference and illustrates the far-right, Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang party – stated he was unsurprised by the Belgian authorities‘ endeavour to disperse the gathering.”Since the left is a minority in Flanders, everywhere they have power (in Belgium), they try to. use their power to intimidate the right,” Vandendriessche stated. “We have seen this over decades happening here in Belgium,” he added.

Was Police Intervention Justified or Politicized?

Vandendriessche also took a stab at Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo for “lecturing” other EU governments on the respect of the rule of law while in the European capital, people are not permitted to “safely organise a conference.” “It’s a totalitarian system,” Vandendriessche declared. “People in power cannot misuse this power to shut events down.”

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.