Belgium’s far-right Vlaams Blok has relaunched under a new name. The move came five days after the Flemish party lost an appeal against a court ruling that it was guilty of “permanent incitement to segregation and racism”. The Vlaams Blok has espoused anti-immigrant views and sought independence for Flanders, home to six million Dutch-speakers. In June it won 24 per cent of the vote in regional elections. But it has been locked out of local and regional government because all mainstream parties refuse to deal with it, even in Antwerp, where it holds a third of the vote.
The change of name to Vlaams Belang, or Flemish interest, was widely anticipated ahead of Sunday’s party congress. Members had already voted to change the party’s statutes and the official line on immigration. They now say non-European immigrants should not be sent to their country of origin but rather allowed to stay in the country as long as they adopt Belgian rules and values. Vlaams Belang leaders have said the new party will “bury Belgium”. Analysts said the ruling could boost its support by forcing it to transform itself into a mainstream right-wing movement.