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|Can Europe Learn the Lessons of Yugoslavia? (Sep. 2001)|
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BRUSSELS — Flemish extreme right party, the Vlaams Blok, has responded to a court ruling that it breaks Belgium’s anti racism laws by changing its name and claiming it is a victim of censorship.
The Blok, which was voted the most popular single party in Flanders in two opinion polls in October, convened in Antwerp on Sunday — five days after Belgium’s highest appeals court upheld a ruling imposed by a court in Ghent, which said the party was a racist organisation under Belgian law.
Activists decided to dissolve the party and start up again under the name Vlaams Belang, which means ‘Flemish Interest’.
Defiant president Frank Van Hecke told the 1,000 party members present: “We are changing our name but not our direction nor our programme.”
Blok member Filip Dewinter attacked the Belgian court ruling by comparing it to the extremists who murdered the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
“While in the Netherlands they kill freedom of expression with bullets, in Belgium they do it with court rulings,” he said.
The decision by the Blok to continue under a new name had been widely expected in recent weeks, following repeated statements by the party that it would continue its “democratic struggle for an independent Flanders” even if the supreme court found against it.
“The founding of a new nationalist Flemish party is not a cosmetic operation but a manicure,” said Dewinter. “We are cutting our nails and polishing our teeth to come out of the corner more effectively.”
(Posted on November 19, 2004)