Belgium in Brief: A far-right festival on Belgium's battlefields

Belgium in Brief: A far-right festival on Belgium's battlefields

After two years of almost all events being scrapped due to pandemic restrictions, this summer has been a stellar season for festivals across the continent, with Belgium cashing in on the almost insatiable appetite for merrymaking.

Whether it be large-scale electric music happenings or city-organised celebrations of cultural significance, organisers have hailed the thousands of participants that have made their events unmitigated successes, not to mention a much-needed boost to the depleted coffers of a sector paralysed by Covid.

Yet despite undeniable benefits brought by an ever-turning kaleidoscope of revelries, it would be a mistake to assume that these gatherings are an undiluted win for all concerned. Not only do they require considerable care in organising and coordinating with local authorities, their wider impact should be a key consideration before the event is even scheduled.

This should be especially obvious for happenings that are exclusive in their nature – even more so when overtly discriminatory. Which makes the decision to allow a neo-Nazi international festival to take place near Ypres especially alarming. Critics have been quick to point to the reputational damage this could have for the area and the immediate threat that the festival's attendees could pose to people of colour or the LGBTQ+ communities.

Nor is the location coincidental – it is quite astounding that city officials who are so aware of the historical import of the area could even entertain the notion of allowing the event to go ahead, not least as concerns about far-right extremism are growing across Europe.

After widespread public outcry, city officials will reopen discussions with police and Belgium's Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis. In the meantime, individuals that could be targeted by far-right sympathisers at the festival are being encouraged to stay clear of the site.

Yet many will be wondering how the resting place of so many who lost their lives fighting fascism can be used as a platform for those exact extremist views.

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