New rules set to slashfunds for racist parties

21st January 2005, Comments 0 comments

21 January 2005, BRUSSELS – A law has been passed to deny public funding to racist and antidemocratic political parties in Belgium.

21 January 2005

BRUSSELS – A law has been passed to deny public funding to racist and antidemocratic political parties in Belgium.

The senate - the upper house of the Belgian parliament - voted for the measure on Thursday evening, with 40 senators approving it, 17 against and one abstention.

Although it was not mentioned specifically in the text, the new law will hit Flemish extreme right party Vlaams Belang particulalrly hard.

Last year a Ghent court ruled that the Belang – then known as the Vlaams Blok – broke Belgium's anti-racism laws with its overtly anti-foreigner propaganda.

The French speaking Belgian National Front also looks set to lose funds under the new legislation.

During Thursday evening's debate, Christian Socialist senator Francis Delperee argued that, "democracy should not finance those who struggle against it."

"If political parties receive public funding, the public powers have the right and the duty to impose conditions," added Interior Minister Patrick Dewael.

"In this case, we ask for the respect of the European Convention on Human Rights," he continued.

The new legislation passed through Belgium’s House of Deputies last year, but the Senate stage was delayed since many Flemish parties feared it could make Vlaams Belang even more successful.

The Belang has become the single most popular party in Flanders, portraying itself as the only real opposition to the establishment.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s coalition government of Liberals and Socialist backed the law, as did the French-speaking opposition parties, the Christian Socialists and Greens.

However, senator Hugo Coveliers, a member of Verhofstadt’s liberal VLD party, argued against it.
"I’m not prepared to align myself like an idiot behind the [French speaking] Socialist Party, turning Vlaams Belang into an even bigger party," he said.

The centre-right Christian Democrats from Flanders, as well as the Vlaams Belang itself, voted against the law.

Although Belang was judged racist as the Blok, the legislation is not retrospective, which means that it will not be automatically deprived of its EUR 2 million in public funding.

However, the Council of State has the power to review a party’s behaviour since May 1999 and that is likely to mean examining the Vlaams Blok too.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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