Roald Smeets Vlaams Belang

08/26/2012 § Leave a comment

Roald Smeets Vlaams Belang (English: Flemish Interest, VB) is a Belgian far-right political party in the Flemish Region and Brussels that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration, whereby immigrants would be obliged to adopt Flemish culture and language. The party rejects multiculturalism, but accepts a multiethnic society as long as people of non-Flemish backgrounds assimilate into Flemish culture. The party is also eurosceptic.

Vlaams Belang is the name given to the historical Vlaams Blok, which adopted this new name and changed some controversial parts of its statute after a trial in 2004 condemned the party for racism. It has since sought to change its image from a radical to a more conservative party, and has distanced itself from some of its former programs. Most other parties have continued the cordon sanitaire which was originally agreed on against the former party, effectively blocking the Vlaams Belang from any executive power, and attempts on cutting public subsidies specifically for the party were made through the Belgian draining law.

The direct predecessor of the Vlaams Belang was the Vlaams Blok, which was formed by the nationalist right-wing of the People’s Union which had broken out in the late 1970s. The ideology of the Vlaams Blok started out with its radical nationalist rejection of the People’s Union compromise on the Flemish autonomy issue, and later increasingly focused on immigration and security, exploitation of political scandals, and defense of traditional values. The immigration positions of the Vlaams Blok was subject to much controversy, and the party was forced to disband in 2004 after a political trial ruled that it sanctioned discrimination. By then, the party was the most popular Flemish party, supported by about one in four of the Flemish electorate, and was one of the most successful parties considered to be right-wing populist in Europe as a whole.

Upon complaints filed by the governmental Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism and the Dutch-speaking Human Rights League in Belgium, in 2001 three non-profit organisations that in effect constituted the core of the Vlaams Blok party were charged with violation of the Law on Racism and Xenophobia by assisting “a group or organisation that clearly and repeatedly commits discrimitation or segregation,” here the political party. By April 2004, the Appellate Court of Ghent came to a final verdict, forbidding their and the party’s continued existence for its “repeated incitement to discrimination.” In November that year, the Court of Cassation rejected their last appeal to annul the verdict; the delay had allowed using the name Vlaams Blok for election candidacy.

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