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Federal MP breaches ban on non-essential foreign travel to take-part in far-right demo in Paris

The Federal MP Dries Van Langenhove who was elected on the list of the radical-right party Vlaams Belang’s has flouted the current ban on non-essential foreign travel. Mr Van Langenhove travelled to Paris on Saturday to take part in a demonstration staged by the French far-right movement Génération Identitaire. Mr Van Langenhove was accompanied by a number of members of his own organisation Schild en Vrienden. The leader of Vlaams Belang Tom Van Grieken has defended Mr Van Langenhove’s actions, saying that his trip to Paris was essential as it was “to defend free speech”. 

Génération Identitaire staged the demonstration in protest at the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin's aim to have the group disbanded. Mr Darmanin decided to take action to get Génération Identitaire outlawed after the organisation recently staged an action to intercept migrants in the Pyrenees. This wasn’t the first time that the organisation that was set up in 2012 had done this kind of thing.  

Mr Van Langenhove (photo below) claims that the nature of his trip to the French capital was essential in nature. Writing on Twitter Mr Van Langenhove said "As an MP I have a number of obligations to fullfill. I went today to show my support to the French in their protest against the French government wishing to ban a right-wing youth movement”.

However, taking part in a demonstration doesn’t fall under the exceptions to the travel ban. Mr Van Langenhove says that he will quarantine if he shows symptoms of coronavirus on his return to Belgium.

The MP can be seen on numerous photographs taken at the demonstration. On one of the photographs, he is not wearing a face covering.

In May of last year Dries Van Langenhove was fined after he attended a barbecue with friends in Ghent. The barbecue contravened the coronavirus restrictions that were then in force. Afterwards he admitted that he was in the wrong and that he should have gone straight home when he saw that too many people were there. “As an MP I should set an example”, Mr Van Langenhove said. 

Van Grieken: "Standing up for free speech is always essential”

The leader of Vlaamls Belang Tom Van Grieken said in a tweet that “Standing up for free speech is always essential”. Mr Van Grieken told VRT News that he knew in advance that Mr Van Langenhove planned to travel to Paris. 

“I have no problem at all with that. Freedom of expression is under threat. We are no longer able to join groups at will. We are able to share hardly anything on social media. This seems to me to be something quite fundamental”. 

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