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The day after their conference in Brussels was banned, the nationalist right won their case

Until the last minute, the fate of the Conference of the European Nationalist Right in Brussels was uncertain.

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The day after their conference in Brussels was banned, the nationalist right won their case

Until the last minute, the fate of the Conference of the European Nationalist Right in Brussels was uncertain. Barely hours after the launch of the event, Tuesday morning, speakers and spectators were notified of the cancellation of the conference after a ban order issued by the mayor of the town hosting the event.

Among the speakers at this conference are several leading figures from the nationalist and eurosceptic camp: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the British Nigel Farage, a big supporter of Brexit, as well as Eric Zemmour. The police, dispatched to the scene on Tuesday, prevented the French polemicist from accessing the event even though his intervention was scheduled to take place at the end of the afternoon.

The elected Belgian socialist Emir Kir, mayor of the commune, justified his decision by invoking security and public order, declaring in a message on is not welcome.” His decision was criticized by the headliners of the conference, who said they saw practices reminiscent of “a dictatorship” or the Soviet era. “I am very sad to see what Belgium has become (...) This symbolizes what the entire European continent is becoming, a continent where we can no longer express ourselves freely,” said Eric Zemmour in the wake of the ban.

But the far right was not the only one to criticize this decision. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo denounced the elected official's initiative in a tweet posted early in the evening: “what happened today is unacceptable. Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy, but it can in no case prevail over the Belgian constitution which guarantees freedom of expression (…). Banning political meetings is unconstitutional.”

Rishi Sunak, the head of the British government, castigated a decision "damaging to freedom of expression and the democracy that results from it", saying he was committed to debate and the exchange of opinions even in cases of disagreement.

After a day of chaos, demands and recriminations, the salvation of the event came Wednesday morning from the Belgian Council of State, the highest administrative court in the country, which decided to suspend the decree, against which the organizers of the conference had initiated an appeal. In its judgment, the Council of State considered that “the constitutional right to assemble peacefully” had been ignored by the Belgian mayor. Although he invoked public security, the Council of State considered that “in such cases it is appropriate to take measures to contain demonstrations on public roads rather than prohibiting a private meeting. The authority must at least endeavor to protect people who intend to exercise their right to assemble, enshrined in the Constitution.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the most anticipated speaker of the day on Wednesday, welcomed this decision when he arrived at the conference venue. Unsurprisingly, the leader was very critical of the policy pursued by the EU in his intervention. He denounced European financial rules "designed to strangle countries that do not behave as Brussels wants them to, such as Hungary or Poland", European migration policy, "hypocritical" and "useless". , and the decline in freedom of expression in Europe for conservative ideas.

When asked about the usefulness of European elections, Viktor Orban launched a full-blown attack on European elected officials: “the goal of an election is to change leaders. And if the leaders are bad, they must be replaced, it’s as simple as that,” he claimed.

“They promised to tackle the problems. Where are the results? The Green Deal has failed, farmers are suffering across Europe, European competitiveness has declined, the migration crisis is greater than before, the war in Ukraine continues. They didn’t keep their promises, they need to go,” he continued to applause.

The Hungarian leader is in Brussels for the European summit on Wednesday and Thursday, which is expected to focus mainly on boosting the EU's competitiveness, with a discussion planned on Iran's recent attack on Israel.

Called to give his speech following the intervention of the Hungarian head of state, Eric Zemmour declared that he was “very happy that European leaders, the Belgian Prime Minister for example, have recalled the importance of democracy. I would have liked the French president to do the same, but unfortunately that was not the case.”

The organizers of the event had to find an emergency fallback solution on Monday, after being rejected for the second time in a week by the venue which was to host them. In Brussels, this decision to ban the conference was strongly condemned: several voices were raised to denounce “free publicity” to a confidential far-right event, reinforcing their discourse.

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