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Artillery Row

NatCon lives on

The conference has gone ahead in Brussels despite protests and police action

Despite starting yesterday, NatCon 2024 is already infamous for the foiled attempt from Brussels officials, police, and activists, to prevent the annual meeting of anti-globalist, pro-nation conservatives going ahead. Today, following a decisive emergency late-night ruling at Conseil d’Etat, the highest court in Belgium, NatCon proceeded successfully without external interference. The judge agreed that “peacefully meeting to discuss ideas” was legal, which followed the prime ministers of Belgium and the UK decrying the attempted suppression.

But the road to a peaceful Wednesday 17th April, and day two of NatCon, was a rocky one. Over the last thirty-six hours, NatCon have had to fight three separate legal cases, multiple venue changes, and key speakers being denied entry — including French polemicist and politician, Eric Zemmour, who is in attendance today.

Yesterday, Yoram Hazony, founder of the Edmund Burke Foundation, had to deliver his opening address behind closed shutters, with journalists and attendees being refused entry. Organisers temporarily closed the doors of The Claridge Hotel to appease Brussels authorities during negotiations. This was prompted by pressure from Emir Kir, the mayor of St-Josse-ten-Noode, who issued a police order to halt the event due to concerns over “public safety”.

Today, Anna Wellisz began proceedings with a qualified celebration, acknowledging the remarkable feat of NatCon making it this far against considerable opposition. She decried the attempted state-sponsored suppression, under the ridiculous pretext of protection of the public from “elected officials” as a fundamental waste of resources — particularly in a city in the midst of a crime wave

On top of state overreach, activist pressure had led to catering companies cancelling their deliveries, and threats were levelled at the Tunisian hotel owner and his wife, with their mobile phone numbers having been released — facts themselves delivered to the crowd by Nigel Farage as he energetically took the stage. During Farage’s speech, a handful of police entered the venue, but were embarrassed by their interruption of what turned out to be a peaceful political gathering.

The interval electronic dance music was incongruous with a crowd of high Tories, conservatives, and elected officials, but felt in keeping with the chaotic disorganisation over the past two days. Following Farage, with minimal preamble and time to decompress, Suella Braverman addressed a partially attentive audience, and was overshadowed by the smoked salmon and guacamole bowls which had surprisingly begun making their way around.

Victor Orban’s entrance was smoother and more dramatic — with calls to “keep the area clear” as he entered the building, and a standing applause in a packed-out room as he took his seat. Despite his position as arguably the most controversial speaker at NatCon, Orban was mild-mannered and modest in Hungary’s role in the burgeoning European movement for national sovereignty.

Less than two months from elections to the European parliament, Orban’s prognosis was pragmatic and straight-talking. He received generous applause for simple suggestions — it’s his job is to make “decisions”, he said.  “If leadership is bad” in the European parliament, then we should “change” the “leadership”.

When asked to recount his own experience of growing up in a communist country, Victor Orban warned against the “everyday fascism”, and “everyday oppression” which is “growing in the European Union” — and he cited the actions of Brussel’s officials yesterday as a case in point. 

The ordeal of the last two days has been dramatised to the world as a ridiculous spectacle of state-sponsored suppression. The actions of the police and two mayors have completely backfired and their tactics are plain for the world to see. Let NatCon’s successful commencement on its second day, at the same venue, without interference, be seen as a small triumph for the principles of freedom and democracy.

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