The door for the far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) party to be included in the government formation talks is open, if it respects the constitution and human right agreements, Flemish rightwing N-VA’s Theo Francken said.
In a televised interview at the weekend, Francken said that the N-VA would be willing to bring the far-right party on board in the ongoing formation of a new federal government if the VB agreed to respect certain boundaries.
Francken, a leading figure of the biggest party in Belgium, said that talks held with VB after they surged in the federal and regional elections last year had yielded no results due to continued opposition from other parties, who refused to associate with the far right.
“Vlaams Belang won the elections and we rightly talked after that,” Francken said. “Those conversations were not a sham operation, but it did not work because the other parties kept saying ‘no’.”
Both the VB and the nationalist N-VA came out as the strongest parties in last year’s federal election, but an inter-party agreement, known as the ‘cordon sanitaire’ has seen a majority of parties shun the VB from taking part in the negotiations.
“We stand for an inclusive Flanders, that will always be the red line,” Francken said, adding: “If Vlaams Belang puts something on the table in line with the Constitution and with human rights and if the tone is right, then our door is open,” he said.
In 2018, speaking before the Belgian parliament, Francken already spoke out against the principle of the cordon sanitaire, as he also admitted that he “sometimes drew inspiration” from VB’s policies on migration.
“I follow what the Vlaams Belang writes on terms of migration, I don’t feel comfortable acknowledging it,” Francken said. “I read your texts, and sometimes I draw inspiration from them. On that ground, you have raised a lot of awareness and that is something that has merit to it.”
A string of controversies surrounding migration ultimately saw Francken step down from his position as secretary of state for migration in the previous government, including his stark opposition to an EU-wide pact on migration as well as serious accusations that Francken facilitated repatriations of Sudanese nationals, who were reportedly tortured upon their return to Sudan.