Police Close Down Viktor Orbán’s Eurosceptic Summit While UK’s Farage On Stage


By Max Griera

(EurActiv) — Local authorities ordered the closure and evacuation of a hardline National Conservatism Conference in Brussels on Tuesday (16 April) on public safety grounds – with organisers complaining of “cancel culture” and “the end of free speech in Europe”.

Belgian police entered the venue around mid-day with a warrant to close the conference down, following pressure from activists and politicians, including anti-fascist organisations and the commune mayor. 

“I have issued an order [to] ban the conference in the interests of public safety,” the mayor of commune Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode, the neighbourhood of Brussels where the conference is taking place, posted on X, adding: “The far right is not welcome”.

Key speakers at the National Conservatism Conference 2024, to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday (16-17 April), included Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, French presidential candidate and extreme-right leader Eric Zemmour (Reconquete) and former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (PiS).

The police initially entered the hall to vacate the event, according to Euractiv reporters present at the venue, but they eventually stayed outside on the pavement – with speeches still ongoing inside.

A policeman, seen to speak with the organisers, confirmed he had a closure order, assuring he would proceed to close down the event.

One of the conference’s most anticipated speakers, former MEP and Brexit leader Nigel Farage, was on stage when the police raided the hall.

“I understand the police are very, very keen to close this down, if they’re going to close it down, they can close it down with me on stage, can’t they? Whether it happens or not, I don’t know, but I’ve been told there is time for questions,” Farage said, after returning to the stage to extend his address.

In a post on X, Orbán blamed the Belgium police, saying: “I guess they couldn’t take free speech any longer”.

Rumours and nervousness quickly swirled in the events hall, as police stormed the entrance.

“We are taking all necessary operational measures to prevent a public disturbance,” police spokeswoman Audrey Dereymaeker told AFP. 

The organisers announced: “Brussels police had an order to close down the event because we were creating a public disturbance, however, they only sent three police officers, so when they came in and cameras turned on them they got scared and went back outside.”

“You can stay inside but if you walk out they will not let you in, if by some chance there is a decision to apply greater force to shut it down, I can assure you we will continue tomorrow morning from another venue,” the representative continued. 

While the event continued running inside, the police prepared a security perimeter outside the venue to plan for a safe exit for attendees.

The event already had challenges securing a location. The first venue Concert Noble cancelled the event after pressure from activists and local politicians. 

The second location, the Hotel Sofitel where many EU leaders are staying ahead of a summit starting on Wednesday, also rescinded the contract after realising the scale of the event and the attendees scheduled, following complaints from guests and local politicians. 

“The hotel, which signed the contract on Friday, has examined the nature of the event and who the invitees are,” Etterbeek mayor Vincent De Wolf said. “A gathering of that size is not without consequences in case of disturbances.” 

Still, the organisation found a third venue, Claridge.

“What has happened in these last few days represents nothing less than a crisis for free speech and political expression for all of Europe,” said Frank Furedi, the director of Mathias Corvinus Collegium, Orbán’s think tank in Brussels, one of the sponsors of the event.

“It is an absolute tragedy that cancel culture has been welcomed into Brussels: the very heart of the European Union.”

He added, “Everyone, regardless of political affiliation, should be concerned about what is happening here.”  

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal boutique, told Euractiv the police order had now been contested in court.

“If the court doesn’t interfere, then the police will probably be here blocking people from entering tomorrow, which I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

Coleman was also set to participate in one of the panels on “top-down political attacks on faith and family.”

It is unclear whether the event will be relocated for a fourth time to continue tomorrow as planned.


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