Vlaams Blok

Vlaams Blok

The Vlaams Blok (VB, English: "Flemish Bloc") was a Belgian secessionist political party which advocated anti-immigration. Its ideologies embraced Flemish nationalism, calling for independence of Flanders. On November 14 2004 the party changed its name to Vlaams Belang ("Flemish Interest"). From its creation in 1978, it was the most notably militant right wing of the Flemish movement.

All significant Flemish parties were reluctant to enter coalitions with the Vlaams Blok and committed not. Following the agreement, known as the cordon sanitaire, Vlaams Blok never entered any level of government. As of 2006, this agreement still applies to the successor party, Vlaams Belang, although a coalition exists between the Vlaams Belang and the lesser known VLOTT. Together, they stood at the 2006 municipal elections.

An appeal court in Ghent, Belgium, ruled in April 2004 that some of the party's organizations were in contempt with the 1981 law on "racism and xenophobia", after which the Vlaams Belang party was formed. Its voting track record in the Flemish and Belgian parliaments was strong and consistent on the immigration and law-and-order theme, but mixed for Flemish autonomy (e.g.: it abstained from a crucial vote on splitting the unified electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde).


The party first made its appearance in the 1978 general elections. It was founded by dissatisfied members, including a former deputy of the then Volksunie (Lode Claes) and more militants as Karel Dillen. The founders had strong links to, and open sympathies for, the collaboration with the Nazis during World War II.Fact|date=February 2007 It has experienced a continuous electoral growth (with the exception of the 1981 elections).The Vlaams Blok was particularly strong in and around Antwerp, where it received thirty-three percent of the votes in the last municipal elections in which it participated.

Since the end of the eighties, its main focus tended to be on "nationalist" themes such as immigration and crime. Because of this evolution, some members left the party, but this did not seem to cause much electoral damage. Many studies and opinion polls showed that its electoral support was mainly based on its tough image on immigration and crime, and on its image as the "only real opposition party", rather than on its platform for the creation of an independent Flemish republic. In fact, some polls showed that the majority of its electorate was opposed to the disappearance of the Belgian monarchy. Others have suggested that many Vlaams Blok voters chose to support them not out of agreement with their policies but more out of disillusionment with the political establishment during the 1990s.

Other Flemish parties followed a cordon sanitaire against the Vlaams Blok, but several politicians in these parties (such as the CD&V, VLD and N-VA) actually criticised the cordon sanitaire as being undemocratic.

Some observers also noted that a few factions existed within the Vlaams Blok: a religious conservative, Catholic wing (whose most notable figure is Alexandra Colen), more moderate Flemish nationalists, and more hardline racists.

In 1995, the federal parliament passed a law outlawing Holocaust denial; the VB voted for the law, "out of a desire for respectability and to break out of its political isolation", even though its leadership contained "Holocaust deniers" [World Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League, "Anti-semitism worldwide 1999-2000", Tel Aviv University Press: p66.] .

In 1996, Karel Dillen, who was "President for life" since 1977, appointed Frank Vanhecke as his successor. It is believed by many that Filip Dewinter was the party's real strong man.

In 2002, the party ideologue and vice-president Roeland Raes gave an interview on Dutch TV where he cast doubt over the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. In the same interview he also questioned the scale of the Nazis' use of gas chambers and the authenticity of Anne Frank's diary. In response to the media assault following the interview, Raes was forced to resign his position but vowed to remain active within the party [cite news
title= [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1034186,00.html Far-right Belgian banned from UK visit] | publisher=The Guardian
] . In 2003, a Vlaams Blok politician was dropped from a delegation of Flemish parliamentarians due to visit the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly after strongly criticizing the SNP [cite news
title= [http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,449278,00.html Belgium's far right party in Holocaust controversy]
publisher=The Guardian
] .

When in April 2004, the appeal court in Ghent ruled the party in contempt with Belgian law on "racism and xenophobia", it announced that the party regularly portrayed foreigners as "criminals who take bread from the mouths of Flemish workers" and found it guilty of "permanent incitement to segregation and racism."

The Vlaams Blok appealed the court decision, but the ruling was confirmed on November 9, 2004 by the Belgian High Court, effectively sentencing the party to abandon the "racist elements" of its program and paying a fine of about 40,000 Euros. The leadership of the Vlaams Blok seized the occasion to dissolve the party, and start afresh under a new name.

The whole trial was seen by some as a political trial, inspired by the Belgian establishment. The federal parliament amended the Constitution to create legal possibilities to condemn Vlaams Blok. [cite news
title= [http://www.techcentralstation.com/112204AA.html Belgians Waffle? A Ban to Worry About]
publisher=TCS Daily
] According to professor Lamine (KUL), a former VB member and "advisor" of the party's legal team, the party for propaganda reasons purposely carried a weak defence, in order to lose the case : "For the party leaders, losing was much more interesting. Winning just wasn't an option." [nl icon [http://www.demorgen.be/archief/artikel.html?i=MjMxMTA=&log_query_id=1696244&articletable=artikels2006&keyword=Luc%20Lamine Eigen voetvolk bijlange niet meer eerst] , De Morgen, 22 July 2006, p. 26 (subscription required).] Lamine himself had earlier stated that the VB should have carried the trial to the European Court of Human Rights, but VB senator Joris Van Hauthem had already stated in 2005, that: "If we had gone to Strasbourg [ECHR] based on procedural arguments, we might have had a case. But Lamine already put in a private claim to overturn the Appeals Court verdict, on the basis of substantive arguments. If Vlaams Belang were to put forth a claim against the verdict as well, at Strasbourg, the Court will bundle both cases. Then we would lose the case for sure. Lamine has thus given us the final blow ." Law professor Lamine denied this : "The party legal department's head doesn't know what he's doing."nl icon cite news | title= [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=GSFD350H Vlaams Belang niet in beroep tegen veroordeling] | publisher=De Standaard | date=2005-03-07]

Supreme Court's decision of November 9, 2004

On November 9, 2004, the Belgian Supreme Court upheld a decision of the Appeal court of Ghent ruling that three organizations associated with the Vlaams Blok were in contempt with the 1981 Belgian law on "racism and xenophobia", or more precisely that the party pursued permanent incitement to discrimination and racial segregation. The Supreme Court held that the prohibition to pursue discrimination and segregation in an obvious and sustained manner is also applicable to political parties (press release in Dutch [ [http://www.juridat.be/cass/cass_nl/p4.htm Dutch press release] ] and in French [ [http://www.juridat.be/cass/cass_fr/p4.htm French press release] ] , see decision in Dutch below).

On November 14, the Vlaams Blok disbanded itself, and a new party with the name Vlaams Belang (in English: Flemish Interest) was created. According to the party leaders, the new party will follow the same programme as used during the regional elections of 2004, but without the infamous '70 steps plan', which was the basis of the party since 1992.

Gerolf Annemans created instant controversy during the inauguration event of the new party by issuing veiled personal threats to the prosecutors and judges who presided over the case in the Supreme Court and courts of appeal. Gerolf Annemans declared during the new party congress: "De namen van alle juridische hoofdrolspelers uit dat proces staan voorgoed in het geheugen van déze jurist gegrift: ze zijn gewaarschuwd voor de rest van hun carrière" which can be translated as "The names of all main legal figures in that trial are forever engraved in this lawyer's memory; they are warned for the rest of their careers".

Notable members

* Gerolf Annemans
* Lode Claes
* Filip Dewinter
* Karel Dillen
* Roeland Raes
* Frank Vanhecke
* Anke Vandermeersch

Election results (1978-2004)


Further reading

* cite journal
quotes =
last = Erik
first = Jan
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 2005
month = May
title = From Vlaams Blok to Vlaams Belang: The Belgian Far-Right Renames Itself
journal = West European Politics
volume = 28
issue = 3
pages = 493–502
doi = 10.1080/01402380500085681
id =
url =
language =
format =
accessdate =
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =

External links

* [http://www.vlaamsblok.be/index.shtml Vlaams Blok website]
* [http://www.vl-onafhankelijk.org Flanders Independent site]
* [http://www.flemishrepublic.org The Flemish Republic online newsletter for English-speaking people] , a web site of the Vlaams Blok
* [http://www.juridat.be/jurispdf/R/C/04/B/RC04B91.pdf Supreme Court's decision of November 9, 2004] , (pdf document), provisional version of the original decision in Dutch
* [http://majorityrights.com/index.php/weblog/comments/39/ Official Vlaams Blok party comment on the conviction]

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