Home Brussels Orbán and Farage’s right-wing fiesta goes ahead in Brussels after big court win

Orbán and Farage’s right-wing fiesta goes ahead in Brussels after big court win

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A Belgian court has sided with the organizers of the National Conservatism Conference against authorities’ attempts to shut down the gathering, ruling that the event can meet for its second day without interference.

The two-day conference, a gathering of influential right-wingers including Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán and Brexit architect Nigel Farage, kicked off Tuesday morning at the Claridge venue, near the European Quarter. But law enforcement, at the behest of the local mayor, arrived two hours into the event to inform organizers that the jamboree would be terminated due to concerns about public disorder.

After hours of tensions and chaos in the venue, organizers eventually reached an agreement with the mayor and police to continue the conference. For the rest of the day, police stopped new arrivals from entering the venue — including some of the speakers — but did not stop the gathering by force or remove people already inside.

The incident sparked widespread outrage, with EU leaders including Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Orbán condemning the police intervention.

Organizers of the conference challenged the mayor’s decision in court to keep the show on the road and the Council of State delivered a late night ruling on Tuesday, striking down the mayor’s order.

The court ruled that in case of risks of disruption of public order, authorities must take measures “to curb demonstrations on public roads rather than banning a private meeting” and that the government “must at least make an effort to protect those who wish to exercise their constitutional right of assembly.”

Because there was an “average” threat to participants, there was no need for “disproportionate efforts from the police services,” the court said.

Emir Kir, the mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode where the Claridge is situated, defended his decision to move to shut down the conference.

“Being a mayor means being a guarantor of public safety,” he said on social media. “My lack of sympathy for those who preach hatred is assumed but it is the maintenance of public order which motivated the ban.”

He added that he has “taken my responsibilities to prevent any overflow and I will remain vigilant about how things unfold.”

Frank Füredi, one of the organizers from right-wing think tank MCC Brussels, which is co-sponsoring the event, told POLITICO that he “couldn’t believe it” when he saw the ruling.

“I thought they would succeed in shutting us down,” he said. “This is really good news.”

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