Politicians and others have been reacting to the revelation of the existence in Belgium of a strongly nationalist, racist and xenophobic group calling itself Schild & Vrienden, as we reported yesterday. On right and left, the reaction has been the same: dismissed and disowned.
Rik Van de Walle, rector of the university of Ghent where S&V founder Dries Van Langenhove is a member of the governing council, issued a statement in which he said Van Langenhove’s matriculation for the coming year would not be accepted, while a disciplinary procedure would be started against him.
“I am deeply shocked,” he said. “There is no more room at the university for him.”
Meanwhile prime minister Charles Michel too took the opportunity of the annual gala of the national council of Jewish organisations in Belgium to call for the National Security Council to step up its surveillance of antisemitic, racist and xenophobic organisations. The details concerning S&V were revealed during the week by he VRT investigative programme Pano.
Antwerp mayor, whose N-VA Flemish nationalist party has been accused by opponents of links to S&V, distanced himself. “I know these people barely if at all, but let me make one thing clear,” he said. “There is no room in our party for that sort of rancid discourse.”
Party colleague and Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois, meanwhile, took to Twitter to describe the positions held by S&V as “disgusting, in opposition to our society. It is now up to the prosecutors to follow the matter up.”
And indeed they will. The prosecutor’s office in Ghent has already started an enquiry into the statements made on camera in the Pano programme, as well as posts on Facebook, some of which could see the posters appear before a jury trial.
But such a possibility is far in he future. In the present, the Flemish Youth Council has taken the first steps to expel at least four member who were also members of S&V, while candidates in local elections in Stekene, Aalst, Sint-Niklaas, Maaseik, and Puurs have stepped aside from the coming local elections.