May 23. 2024. 8:25

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De Croo, Meloni, Sunak condemn shutting down of hard right meeting in Brussels

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo condemned the local mayor’s decision to shut down an event gathering European hard right leaders in Brussels on Tuesday (16 April), alongside counterparts from Italy and the UK, leaving the door open for the event to continue.

The National Conservatism conference, gathering hard right leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and French Presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, was interrupted by an order from the mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode municipality Emir Kir, where the event was being held.

At first, the police entered the venue to execute Kir’s order, but authorities ended up allowing the event to continue, opting to barricade the entrance to prevent attendees from entering or reentering.

A few hours later, De Croo posted on X: “What happened at the Claridge today is unacceptable. Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy but can never overrule the Belgian constitution, which has guaranteed the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly since 1830.”

“Banning political meetings is unconstitutional,” he added. “Full stop.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the president of the European Conservatives and Reformers (ECR) party, some of whose members were present at the event, thanked De Croo for “his timely and clear stance against the hateful oppression of freedom of expression taking place in Brussels,” also affirming she asked him to follow-up on the situation.

She continued, saying, “All the victims of this unjustifiable abuse, particularly the ECR members present,” had her “total solidarity.”

ID and ECR, the EU parties to which most attendees belonged, are gaining ground ahead of June’s EU elections.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “It’s very clear that cancelling events or preventing attendance and non-platforming speakers is damaging to free speech and democracy as a result. It’s very clear that free debate and exchange of views is vital. Even when you disagree.”

Conference organisers and participants have used the incident to claim censorship and lack of freedom of speech, doubling down their accusations against Brussels, the seat of the EU, of promoting the growth of ‘cancel culture.’

Some of the conference participants are set to participate in a similar event in Budapest, CPAC Hungary, which has denied access to several media outlets, such as The Guardian, arguing that the event is a “no woke zone.”

“It’s the new form of communism,” one of the keynote speakers, Brexit leader and former MEP Nigel Farage, who was speaking when authorities arrived to shut down the event, told Euractiv.

“No alternative views allowed. Anyone who disagrees is mad, mad, dangerous, and they’ve exposed themselves today to the world… It shows these people in a very bad light,” he added.

According to a translated version of the event closure order seen by Euractiv, the municipality mayor was concerned by NatCon participants’ “national conservative vision of society,” affiliation with the “European extreme right,” and Euroscepticism.

He was also concerned that, should the event be allowed to proceed, “serious disturbances to the public order (were) to be feared” because of NatCon’s “ostensibly provocative and discriminatory nature.”

The document also reads that Kir was concerned about participants’ safety, predicting a “threat against the participants” and “violent reactions,” rendering the event “inadvisable to hold.”

“In Etterbeek, Brussels City, and Saint-Josse, the far-right is not welcome,” he said on X.

Read more with Euractiv

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