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Business News/ News / Far-Right Event Backed by Orban Faces Ban Effort in Brussels
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Far-Right Event Backed by Orban Faces Ban Effort in Brussels

A far-right political conference being staged in Brussels with the support of Hungarian groups backed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban descended into chaos Tuesday as city authorities tried to shut it down.

Far-Right Event Backed by Orban Faces Ban Effort in BrusselsPremium
Far-Right Event Backed by Orban Faces Ban Effort in Brussels

(Bloomberg) -- A far-right political conference being staged in Brussels with the support of Hungarian groups backed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban descended into chaos Tuesday as city authorities tried to shut it down.

Speakers including Nigel Farage, a UK politician who led the Brexit charge, continued to speak at the National Conservatism Conference gathering despite orders from a local mayor to ban the event, citing public safety concerns. About a dozen police officers formed a cordon outside the conference and were blocking people from entering. 

The event’s organizers cycled through planned venues after at least two places at the last minute canceled plans to host the event, where Orban and former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki are scheduled to speak Wednesday. It’s unclear whether the event will proceed on Wednesday.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo strongly criticized officials in Brussels for trying to shut down the meeting, calling it “unacceptable." 

“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," he said in a post on the X social network. “Banning political meetings is unconstitutional. Full stop."

The dispute risks playing into the hands of some far-right politicians, who have accused government officials across Europe of trying to mute their voices ahead of June elections for the European Parliament. 

“New communism is alive and well. It now manifests itself in the EU," Farage said in an interview after Tuesday’s events. “No alternative views tolerated or allowed." He added that banning Orban’s speech on Wednesday would provoke a diplomatic incident.

“We must tell the world they tried to cancel us in Brussels, but freedom will prevail," Frank Furedi, the executive director of MCC Brussels, a think tank backed by Orban’s Eurosceptic Fidesz party, said in a statement. 

Emir Kir, the mayor of the Brussels municipality of Saint-Josse, said his order to ban the gathering was aimed at ensuring public safety.

“In Etterbeek, Brussels City and Saint-Josse, the far right is not welcome," he wrote in a Facebook post.

Orban seized on the dispute, posting on X, “I guess they couldn’t take free speech any longer."

--With assistance from Lyubov Pronina.

(Updates with Farage reaction in seventh paragraph)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 17 Apr 2024, 01:06 AM IST
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