From Tue May 4 13:45:08 2004
Date: Mon, 3 May 2004 18:11:07 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Givel <>
Article: 179241
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Court ruling puts future of Belgian far-right party in doubt

The International Herald Tribune, 23 April 2004

23/4/2004—A court ruling branding a Belgian far-right party as racist and imposing fines on key supporters has dealt a damaging blow to one of Europe's main ultranationalist forces, newspapers reported on Thursday.

The party, the Vlaams Blok, part of a far-right surge in Europe in recent years along with the National Front in France and the Freedom Party in Austria, was found guilty of breaking antiracism laws by an appeal court in Ghent on Wednesday. The court ruled that the Vlaams Blok regularly portrays 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's leader, Filip Dewinter, led the party to a score of 30 percent of the vote in his Antwerp region and of 17.9 percent in national elections in May 2003. He is hoping to build on that at regional elections in June for which polls credit the party with 22 percent support in Flanders.

Despite its electoral successes, the Vlaams Blok has been isolated and kept out of national power by other mainstream parties in Belgium. The verdict cannot lead to an immediate ban on the party because the Belgian constitution does not allow for a party to be banned, said political analyst Pascal Delwit. But the ruling has undermined its foundations, he added. The Vlaams Blok faces an existential choice: remain an anti-establishment force or become a civilized party, said the Flemish economic daily De Tijd.

Financially, the court fine—which party leader Dewinter condemned as political murder—risks depriving the Vlaams Blok of substantial income. The appeal court fined three associations that are linked to the Vlaams Blok E12,400, or $14,880 dollars, each for breaking anti-racism laws. The associations, which mainly manage the party's finances, were condemned for relations with a racist organization. The finding could make financial backers cut links with it, said De Standaard, a Flemish-language newspaper.