Paul Magnette, president of the French-speaking socialist party PS, has strongly condemned a meeting held earlier this month between the PS mayor of the Brussels commune of Saint-Josse, Emir Kir, and six Turkish mayors, including two who are members of the extreme right-wing MHP party, which is accused of being close to the Grey Wolf organised crime group.
Magnette was appearing on the Sunday lunchtime politics show L’invité presented by veteran political journalist Pascal Vrebos. In recent weeks, Magnette has been one of the informateurs appointed by the King to look for ways to form a new federal government. More recently, he met with Antwerp mayor and N-VA president Bart De Wever, but that meeting failed to deliver common ground.
When the question of the behaviour of Kir, himself of Turkish origin and mayor of one of the capital’s most cosmopolitan communes, as well as the smallest and poorest, Magnette did not hesitate.
“The cordon sanitaire is a reality against the Vlaams Belang, as it should be against any party on the extreme right wing, whoever they are and wherever they come from,” he said. The so-called cordon sanitaire is a “gentleman’s agreement” between the political parties in Belgium to agree not to conduct any business with the Vlaams Belang, whatever their support among members of the public. However its mention by Magnette is also a dog-whistle call to French-speaking voters who have a tendency to conflate Vlaams Belang with N-VA. His PS party has made it clear it will not enter into a coalition that includes the N-VA, despite its being the leading party in Flanders.
Emir Kir, meanwhile, is due in the near future to appear before the socialist party’s “vigilance committee” which scrutinises the behaviour of elected members. Kir has expressed his willingness to comply.
“Contrary to what has been said, I did not issue an invitation to meet those mayors. My office was contacted by the association of Turkish municipalities, which is politically neutral, and which informed us they would be present for a working meeting at the EU’s Committee of the Regions [in Brussels]. The association also wished to have a meeting with me.”