NatCon Brussels 2 conference in Brussels, Belgium in 2024 (Photo: NatConTalk /

NatCon Conference in Brussels: Freedom of Speech Banned then Authorized

Controversial keynote speakers, strange happenings, a police raid and an overzealously anti-conservative mayor were the hottest ingredients of the NatCon conference, organized by the American Edmund Burke Foundation, having right-aligned present and former statesmen and experts take the stage. A conference first banned then redeemed. A report.

The National Conservatism Conference, or in short “NatCon Brussels 2” gathering did not get off to an easy start: on my arrival in Brussels, I was informed that the venue had changed after two venues had pulled out, allegedly under pressure from left-wing politicians and activists.

The organisers made a great effort to find a final, third venue overnight. According to the organisers’ briefing, the owners of the two previous venues (the lavish Concert Noble and the Sofitel Hotel) had been seriously threatened if they gave space to the conservative rally.

Despite the unseemly preliminaries, the conference got off to an orderly start.

But just after midday, when Nigel Farage (formerly of the UK Independence Party, UKIP) took to the stage, word spread that the police would be on the scene within 15 minutes and that the organisers should close the event immediately.

“There is a Risk of Serious Disturbance to Public Order”

That was the reasoning for the a decision to shut down the gathereing, according to the mayor’s office of Emir Kir, a Turkish immigrant. It’s frightening, but it also makes you wonder why this is happening in a city like Brussels, where liberal values are always at the forefront.

As everyone prepared to evacuate, the organisers asked us not to panic. In the end the promised large police presence was reduced to a few uniforms.

They seemed to carry out their orders half-heartedly – they passed on the council’s decision, but there was no coercion. What they did do was set up a barricade in front of the entrance in case members of the counter-protesting Antifa group showed up. From then on, no one could enter and those who had to leave, could not return.

Police entering the building:

Although the audience expressed their indignation and all the speakers expressed how outrageous what was happening, everyone remained calm. Nigel Farage, like a real stand-up comedian, said that if the police were going to take him away, they should do it while dragging him off the stage.

Meanwhile, Farage recalled how he had literally become a pariah in Brussels after the Brexit negotiations were completed, even his favourite bar owner had received threats, allegedly, directly from the European Commission that he could lose catering contracts if he served Farage.

But Farage believes that if that was the price he paid to get his country out of the EU, it was worth it.

British politician Nigel Farage on stage at the NatCon Brussels 2 conference in Brussels, April 16, 2024 (Photo: NatConTalk /

British politician Nigel Farage on stage at the NatCon Brussels 2 conference in Brussels, April 16, 2024 (Photo: NatConTalk /

Of course, that did not happen, but the question of what to do with the meals did. With the catering company also pulling out under threat, the police barricade made it difficult to bring in anything for the event. It was jokingly suggested that the counter-demonstrators would first starve you out and then probably cut the building’s power supply. The organisers, showing their creativity, saved us with crab salad and other delicious starters to fulfill the above humorous prediction.

Prime Minister of Belgium: Banning Political Meetings is Unconstitutional

“I am Belgian and today I am deeply ashamed of my country”, David Engels, Research Professor at the Polish Instytut Zachodni said in his speech.

Many of the participants and political commentators shared the views of lecturer and entrepreneur Dr. Eli David : “This suppression of free speech in EU capital casts doubts about Europe’s future.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, also found what happened unacceptable. He said that the actions of the mayor of Brussels, Emir Kir, were unconstitutional.

Like De Croo, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also condemned the move. Former UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who spoke at the event, also addressed the situation in her speech.  The scandalous decision of the cancellation was successfully challenged by ADF, the Vienna-based international faith-based legal advocacy organization, at the Belgian Conseil d’État, the judiciary body in a late-night emergency ruling, overturned state censorship and ruled in favor of #NatCon, the ADF wrote on their X/Twitter page.

Viktor Orban: “Go away. We need new leadership”

On the second day, everything was back to “normal” when we heard Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s repeated calls for the occupation of Europe, clearly stating that the current leadership is wrong and must be replaced without any philosophising.

Orban was clearly the star of the day, in conversation with Israeli-American philosopher Yoram Hazony. Referring to the scandal surrounding the event, Orban said “it’s like the late 1980s, the late ’80s in Hungary, where the forces of freedom and the forces of oppression were fighting each other.”

He added: “The communists couldn’t ban us and neither could the Brussels bureaucrats. We are happy that we are still allowed to speak in Brussels.”
Hazony said that while political leadership has been lacking in the national conservative movement, he believes it is Hungary that has taken the lead. But how can a relatively small country be capable of such leadership,” the philosopher asked.

According to Orban, Hungary cannot be the player; a country of the right size is needed to actually lead the movement politically. He believes that Italy or France is the right place.

“It is important to fight for freedom, and this will make us more active,” the Hungarian Prime Minister said.

Orban then listed in detail the mistakes made by the European Commission, which should not allow the return of Ursula von der Leyen’s leadership: better agriculture, managed migration, and the cessation of sanctions would stop the war in Ukraine. According to him, the EU leadership, and personally von der Leyen failed in all of that: farmers are suffering, the migration crisis is worse than ever and the Russo-Ukrainian war still goes on.

“If leadership promises something and fails to deliver, they have to leave. Go away. We need new leadership,” he emphasized. He also explained why the Hungarian anti-migration policy is successful: “We have a system. We have a border. If you cross it illegally, it’s a crime.”

According to Orban, what is at stake in migration is the kind of civilization Europe will become. “It is best to live in a Christian civilization. Why should we give it up,” he asked rhetorically.

He added that Islam is also a valuable civilization, but “mixing the two civilizations will not bring good things.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in conversation with Yoram Hazony at the NatCon Brussels 2 conference in Brussels, Belgium, April 17, 2024 (Photo: NatConTalk /

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in conversation with Yoram Hazony at the NatCon Brussels 2 conference in Brussels, Belgium, April 17, 2024 (Photo: NatConTalk /

Zemmour: Wokeism has Become the New Face of the European Left

After Orban, the other “bad boy” in the eyes of the European elite came the anti-Islamist far-right French politician Eric Zemmour.

Some say the scandal really erupted because of him, he was the real stumbling block of the antifascists or whoever wanted the conference to be banned.

“Europe is not a country. Europe is not a people or a nation. It is a civilization, forged by Judeo-Christianity and the Greco-Roman spirit. The European Union is not even a century old, but our Europe is more than two millennia old,” Zemmour stated.

He also elaborated that Europe and the European Civilization have three main enemies: Islamisation, the EU bureaucracy, and the tyranny of its judges and workers. The politician said that Christianity has been pushed back by left-wing activism, but he believes that Islam wants to fill this space and dominate the continent. He said European bureaucracy is a monster that is growing all the time. The continent of freedom is losing its rights, he added. “Economic freedom, political freedom, cultural freedom are the spoils of European bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that is strangely similar to Soviet communism, only this is the homeopathic version.”

“Wokeism is grotesque, but it is immensely dangerous because it massively influences the media, artists, and institutions, and it has become the new face of the European Left,” Zemmour concluded.

All in all, one thing that the conservatives/populists were wrong about: that democracy is still working in the West, in Brussels, and their conference is the proof of it: free speech is not dead. Yet.

During the standoff between the organizers and the Belgian authorities on April 16, we reached out to Saint-Josse-ten-Noode mayor Emir Kir who gave the order to ban the event, to comment on his reasoning, whether he thought the police could have separated the Antifa counter-protesters and the attendees, and if the other two mayors who had already rejected the event had warned him of any kind of imminent danger.

We did not receive an answer until publication but Kir in his posts published on April 17 on alluded to an analysis made by CUTA/OCAM, a Belgian centre of knowledge and expertise in charge of assessing terrorist and extremist threat in Belgium, as what lead to his decision. A day earlier, he simply wrote the “extreme right is not welcome” in his district. 

István Vass
István Vass is a Hungarian foreign policy journalist. Graduated in European and International Administration, he spent his traineeship at the Hungarian Permanent Representation in Brussels and then went on to work in various ministries inside the Hungarian public administration. His articles have been published in various online and print outlets in Hungary. In his writing he focuses on the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy and the post-soviet region.

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