Leader of Belgian Flemish far-right political party Vlaams Belang, Tom Van Grieken is open for letting Belgium exist if he gets everything else he wants. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

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Make me PM and I might be willing to spare Beligum, independence leader says


The leader of Belgium’s premier separatist party, Vlaams Belang, has confirmed that he might be willing to become PM and spare Belgium from destruction so long as his party gets to implement every single one of its other election promises.

Tom Van Grieken, the head of the right-wing independence group, said in a June 3 interview that — while the decision would be “particularly” difficult — he might even reluctantly agree to become prime minister of the country, so long as he is allowed to fully implement the rest of Vlaams Belang’s manifesto without compromises.

“It’s a tough decision,” the president of Vlaams Belang admitted when asked, eventually responding to the query with a reluctant-sounding “yes”.

“Now my communication advisor would say that I now should have to start beating around the bush, but let me say that if I could implement everything else [in my programme], and there remains only a small layer of Belgium, well, in that case that might be something I could consider accepting.”

The journalists interviewing Van Grieken appeared surprised, asking if that meant his outlook was similar to that of his main competitor, the centre-right New Flemish Alliance (N-VA). Unlike Vlaams Belang, which wants full independence from Belgium, the rival group has championed a policy of devolution called confederalism.

But Van Grieken hit back, stressing he did not say if his party would ever accept the existence of the Belgian state in its current form.

Speaking to Brussels Signal, Vlaams Belang’s press office also rejected any notion they were moderating their position regarding Flemish nationalism, insisting they still wanted full independence for their region.

“No, we’re not giving up the end of Belgium. Tom Van Grieken hasn’t said that either,” they said.

“In the hypothetical scenario where you can implement your entire programme in a federal government and only a small layer of Belgium remains, Tom might ‘consider accepting’ that.”

Regardless chances seem slim that Van Grieken could possibly be Belgium’s PM following the elections on June 9. While Vlaams Belang is expected to come first in the country overall, it is caught behind a “cordon sanitaire“, meaning that all other parties currently refuse to work with it.

Ever since becoming leader, Van Grieken has tried to “clean up” his party’s image, making it more mainstream in the hope the other parties might drop the cordon sanitaire.

While his leadership has seen the group’s popularity surge, the cordon sanitaire remains firmly in place.

Nevertheless, signalling that Vlaams Belang would consider letting go of its main political issue — the independence of Flanders — will not likely sit well with its most ardent nationalist supporters, even when done jokingly.