NatCon conference to resume after Brussels court overturns closure order | Belgium


The NatCon conference featuring Nigel Farage, Suella Braverman and the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, among its speakers will resume on Wednesday after a Brussels court overturned a local mayor’s decision to close it down on Tuesday.

After moves condemned as “unacceptable” and “unconstitutional” by the Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo, the organisers took the matter to the conseil d’état, the country’s supreme administrative court.

Citing article 26 of the constitution of Belgium, which “grants everyone the right to assemble peacefully”, the court ruled that there was no evidence of a threat to public order from the event itself and that this seemed to be “derived purely from the reactions that its organisation might provoke among opponents”.

It confirmed the mayor had the authority to seek police orders to close events if there was “serious disturbances of the public peace”.

On Tuesday, there were farcical scenes at the Claridge venue after police entered the building to serve an order just as the former Brexit party leader Nigel Farage was finishing his speech.

Radical right conference shut down by Brussels police – video report

The former British home secretary Suella Braverman, who followed Farage on the schedule, was allowed to continue with her lengthy speech railing against the European convention of human rights but by then the conference had been shuttered with no speakers, including the former French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour allowed in.

Although there had been no protests on the street outside at any point in the morning, police surrounded the entrance and delegates were encouraged to leave gradually.

Paul Coleman, the executive director of ADF International​, an organisation advocating family and faith that backed the court case on Tuesday night, accused the local mayor of “authoritarian censorship”. The conference was staged after two other venues pulled the plug under pressure from other local mayors.

“While common sense and justice have prevailed, what happened yesterday is a dark mark on European democracy,” said Coleman. “No official should have the power to shut down free and peaceful assembly merely because he disagrees with what is being said.”

The decision by the mayor attracted widespread condemnation from the left and right, handing the organisers, who claimed to be victims of “cancel culture”, a PR coup.

De Croo said: “What happened at the Claridge today is 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. Banning political meetings is unconstitutional. Full stop.”

Wednesday’s speakers include Orbán, the former Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the British commentator Melanie Phillips, who is speaking about conservatives and Gaza.

Other major themes are faith and the family in crisis, borders and the nation state and the future of Europe.

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