Posted on April 16, 2024

Farage and Orbán’s Brussels Jamboree Descends Into Mayhem Amid Police Siege

Eddy Wax and Claudia Chiappa, Politico, April 16, 2024

A gathering of Europe’s hard-right elite in Brussels descended into chaos on Tuesday as police moved to shut down the conference, barricading the venue’s entrance and causing widespread outrage.

The National Conservatism Conference had been set to welcome Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán and U.K. politician Nigel Farage over the next two days, but law enforcement arrived two hours into the event at the Claridge venue, near the European Quarter, to inform organizers that the shindig would be terminated.

“The authorities decided to shut the event due to possibility of public disorder,” a police officer heard by POLITICO told one of the organizers. The shutters had already come down on the venue where Brexit architect Farage was due to give a keynote speech at 11 a.m.

When he got on stage, as drama continue to unfold outside the venue, Farage lambasted the Brussels authorities as “simply monstrous” for attempting to cancel the event. “I knew I wouldn’t be welcome back in Brussels,” the former MEP chafed.


Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, a Flemish liberal, also 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.”


About an hour after they initially arrived, the police returned at 12:45 p.m. to hand an official order to the event’s local organizer, Anthony Gilland, chief of staff at MCC. The police gave him 15 minutes to read and sign the three-page document.


By 2 p.m. the standoff had lasted for nearly three hours. Some attendees had left, but most stuck around to listen to the remaining panelists.

The Claridge event space was already the conference’s third venue, after its first space — Concert Noble — turned them away under pressure from the socialist mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, while the liberal mayor of Etterbeek pressured the luxury Sofitel hotel to cancel it on the second attempt.

Emir Kir, the mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode where the Claridge is situated, told POLITICO earlier by email that he would “immediately take measures to ban” the event.

At one point the Belgian-Tunisian owner of the venue, Lassaad Ben Yaghlane, 59, said a compromise had been reached with the local mayor and the police to allow the event to continue.

Police said they would stop new arrivals from entering the venue, but promised not to stop the conference by force or remove people already inside.

Speakers including French provocateur Eric Zemmour, who was slated to give a keynote speech at 4 p.m., and French MEP Patricia Chagnon were among those whom police stopped from entering the venue.


Orbán, who is scheduled to speak at the conference on Wednesday, criticized the “leftist liberal leadership” of Brussels during a press conference at the European Parliament.