Far-right ‘NatCons’ fundraiser in Brussels cancelled for second time

Far-right ‘NatCons’ fundraiser in Brussels cancelled for second time
Keynote speakers Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, former Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki and former MEP Nigel Farage. Credit: Belga

Just a few hours after announcing a new venue location on Monday, the controversial National Conservative Conference saw another Brussels venue cancel its planned far-right fundraiser after the intervention of the local mayor and police.

In an email seen by The Brussels Times, the Hotel Sofitel Brussels Europe management confirmed on Monday afternoon that the far-right fundraising event had been cancelled again – making it the second time in four days.

The conference was scheduled to take place from 16-17 April with guests including the likes of Nigel Farage, Viktor Orbàn, and Suella Braverman but also Vlaams Belang MEP Tom Vandendriessche, members of France's National Rally, Poland's PiS and Spain's Vox.

"I was warned by the press about the nature of the event and the people who were coming," Mayor of Etterbeek Vincent de Wolf (MR) told The Brussels Times on Monday. "I informed the local police authorities, who contacted Sofitel and the management decided to cancel the event."

According to the mayor, the organisers were already at the Sofitel Hotel, as they had signed the agreement on Friday and already had the premises today to prepare for tomorrow's conference.

"They weren't happy, they didn't want to leave," de Wolf continued. "The police arrived to explain that the Sofitel wasn't the one to cancel and that this was the right thing to do. They then left peacefully." The mayor confirmed the event will not take place tomorrow at the Hotel Sofitel tomorrow, and with such little time left, said that the chances of finding a replacement venue were slim.

Credit: Hotel Sofitel Brussels Europe

On Friday, growing pressure on the original venue Concert Noble's owners had led to the first cancellation of the event. Yet over the weekend, organisers vowed to find a new venue in Brussels for the fundraiser – while Belgian antifascist groups issued a call to "remain mobilised".

Conference chairperson Yoram Hazony wrote late on Saturday night claiming that a new venue had been secured and that the details would be revealed on Monday. However, the announcement of the new venue would prove to be short-lived.

Prior to the announcement of the second cancellation, some 30 antifascist collectives and organisations penned an open letter on Monday, voicing opposition to the far-right fundraiser. "We are preparing ourselves and are looking into where the conference will take place," said Camille, an activist with the Belgian Antifascist Coordination (CAB) over the weekend.

In the letter, the groups reiterated their call for any venue or institution, Belgian or Brussels-based, to refuse to host this conference – as well as calling on local authorities not to authorise it.

According to the open letter, the MCC Brussels, Viktor Orbàn's policy think tank in Brussels, had been lobbying to put pressure on the City of Brussels to find a replacement venue. "We are astonished that this institute in the pay of Viktor Orbàn can have such power and influence in Brussels," the signatories said.

Posing as mainstream

The open letter also notes how members of this new far-right, such as Viktor Orbàn, or Giorgia Meloni, take advantage of their power to strengthen far-right allies internationally, starting with Vlaams Belang in Belgium.

"Their governmental actions give a foretaste of what they are capable of: abolition of the citizenship income in Italy, 56 hours/week in Hungary, tougher access to abortion, anti-LGBTQ legislation or frontal attacks on public education and civil society," the letter read.

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during the European Council summit, Thursday 21 March 2024 in Brussels. Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Activists were also keen to draw more attention to the view of the guest speakers, as a way of shoring up public opposition to the conference. On Monday, the National Conservative Conference announced the addition to the line up Mateusz Morawiecki, the former Prime Minister of Poland and member of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party. Morawiecki was instrumental in his party seizing control of Poland's judiciary after the 2015 elections – before being defeated by a broad coalition led by former European Council President Donald Tusk in 2023 elections.

Also among the guests, the activists noted the presence of Hans-Georg Maassen – the former head of German espionage who is currently suspected of far-right activities by the German authorities. American writer Rod Dreher was also due to give a speech, and is best known to believe that the Christchurch shooter in New Zealand, who killed 51 people in 2019 at a mosque, had "sincere and real concerns" about "the declining population of 'ethnic' Europeans".

Antifascist activists at CAB have since welcomed the announcement of Hotel Sofitel Brussels Europe on Monday, saying "far-right is not welcome in Brussels." They also pledge to "remain vigilant until there is a guarantee they won't find another venue."

If the fundraising conference is definitively cancelled, they will call for a "celebratory" rally. "In any case, this is a great victory against these morbid figures."

This story was updated on Monday 15 April at 18:02 to reflect the second cancellation of the conference on Monday afternoon by Hotel Sofitel Brussels Europe.

UPDATE: Organisers have found a last-minute venue at Claridge Events in Saint-Josse, announced at 15 April 23:00.

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