Brussels’s Court Decision: Far-Right Conference Allowed to Proceed in Brussels 

Sarhan Basem
Credit: "Credit: Riposte Laïque"

Brussels’ (Brussels Morning) – Highest court allows the continuation of a far-right National Conservatism conference, defying a ban imposed by the mayor. European leaders condemn the ban, emphasizing freedom of speech and assembly.

The highest court in Brussels has permitted a gathering of far-right European nationalist politicians to resume for a second day, the conference’s organisers state, after police tried to shut it down on Tuesday.

Who was scheduled to speak at the conference?

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, French far-right candidate Eric Zemmour, and former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki were planned to speak at the two-day National Conservatism (NatCon) conference in Brussels, which had laboured to find a venue in the Belgian capital willing to host it.

During the first day of the event, Brexit Party architect Nigel Farage was speaking to the audience at the Claridge in the Saint-Josse Ten Noode neighbourhood when police interfered with a shutdown order around 12:30 CET on Tuesday. 

How did the German far-right party respond?

The German far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) expressed the decision to authorise the continuance of the NatCon arrangement was made overnight at an extraordinary session of the administrative court. “The Belgian justice system has acted to protect the freedoms of speech and assembly with a decisive emergency late-night ruling in favour of the conference on National Conservativism,” its statement stated.

What were Eric Zemmour’s remarks about Europe?

“Thanks to God, thanks to the pressure we exerted, thanks to the scandal in all of Europe, Europe has shown that it was still the continent of liberal democracy, and of the rule of law,” Eric Zemmour told reporters inside the conference.

Why did the Brussels mayor issue the ban?

Emir Kir, the mayor of Brussels’ Saint-Josse district, had summoned safety issues for the ban. He also noted that the far-right — which is predicted to stream in EU-wide elections in June — was “not welcome”. 

How did the Belgian PM react to the ban?

Mayor command drew broad condemnation, with Belgium’s PM Alexander De Croo denouncing it as “unacceptable”, and British PM Rishi Sunak calling it “extremely disturbing”.

It was not only participants in the conference who took offence at the police’s moves. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo wrote on X that there was no excuse for shutting it down.

“What happened at the Claridge today is unacceptable”, he wrote. “Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy but can never overrule the Belgian constitution guaranteeing the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly since 1830. Banning political meetings is unconstitutional.”

The National Conservatives are an association of politicians, public figures and scholars typically associated with the populist right that espouses both conservative and nationalist values, known for their strong Eurosceptic and anti-immigration stance.

Last year, the conference generated alarm in the UK when one speaker, British historian Douglas Murray, grumbled that the cause of nationalism was unfairly associated with the two world wars – or in his words, “the Germans mucking up twice in the 20th century”.

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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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.