European Parliament reprimands yet another right-wing MEP over alleged ‘hate speech’

Following a four-week ‘hate speech’ investigation, the European Parliament has formally reprimanded a Flemish MEP for referring to the EU’s asylum policy as a form of “organised replacement” during a plenary debate.

Following a four-week ‘hate speech’ investigation, the European Parliament has formally reprimanded a Flemish MEP for referring to the EU’s asylum policy as a form of “organised replacement” during a plenary debate, reports the Brussels Signal.

Tom Vandendriessche of populist political party Vlaams Belang, who has represented the Flemish separatists since 2019, made the comments at a Strasbourg debate marking the start of the Belgian presidency of the European Council in January.

Responding to a suggestion from the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson that the EU’s recently agreed Migration Pact would allow the bloc to more effectively control migration from the Global South, Vandendriessche declared that the purpose of the Pact was in fact to “attract more migration”.

The Migration Pact includes a mechanism for Member States to receive 30,000 relocated asylum seekers annually from “frontline” countries, or alternatively to make a “solidarity payment” to those countries of €20,000 per asylum seeker refused. 

“There is no upper limit on the number of asylum seekers and there is no return mechanism for asylum fraudsters,” he said, adding that: “Illegal migration is therefore not what this EU migration pact is about.

“The real intention is more migration. Commissioner Johansson openly admits it: there are too few European births, and she wants to replace them by importing four and a half million non-Europeans. Per Year. Deliberately organised repopulation [“omvolking”], the colonisation of Europe, the subjugation of Europeans, the suicide of our unique European civilization. This EU migration pact is pure madness.”

Despite the function of the debate being to encourage ‘debate’ (the clue, if you look carefully, is in the descriptor), outraged progressive MEPs chose instead to protest to the Maltese President of the Parliament, Roberta Metsola, that Vandendriessche had committed ‘hate speech’. Metsola then swiftly announced that she would launch an investigation into Vandendriessche’s words, and examine if they broke Parliament’s rules of conduct.

Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veldt specifically accused Vandendriessche of “employing Nazi terminology” when referring to “organised repopulation”. ‘Omvolking’ is a Dutch calque of the German “umvolkung” – which Vandendriesschehas has used before in Parliament – and relates to radical change in the demographic composition of a population, through immigration and influencing reproductive behaviour.

The alleged breach of the rules was under Rule 10 of the European Parliament’s procedure rulebook, which states that “member shall not resort to offensive language”, where that term is taken to include the inherently vague and largely subjective category of ‘hate speech’. 

Following her four-week investigation, Metsola has now issued Vandendriessche with a public formal expression of disapproval, and requested that the ID group MEP refrain from using such expressions in the future.

“The connotations of certain expressions are particularly delicate,” she said, adding that MEPs should “always consider the impressions their speeches leave on citizens, and the emotions it can provoke in them”.

In his official reply to Metsola, Vandendriessche said that what he had meant was “diametrically opposed to the interpretation she and MEP Sophie in’t Veld have suggested”.

“‘Omvolking’ is used to describe the process where the original population is replaced by migration,” Vandendriessche continued. “My rejection of this policy is unequivocal and if any connotation exists, it is in opposition to the policy associated with it.”

The MEP also said that he believed in’t Veld was trying to “intimidate him” to stop him airing his political views.

The disciplinary investigation against Vandendriessche is the latest example of a growing trend for left-wing activists, civil society groups and MEPs to abandon the principle of robust counter-speech – i.e., speech that aims to remedy potential harm brought about by other speech – in favour of weaponising parliamentary procedures to punish those who express lawful but potentially offensive views, while also chilling the speech of other, similarly minded parliamentarians. 

In 2018, for instance, a letter of complaint, drafted by Italian Socialist MEP Cécile Kyenge and signed by 50 other MEPs was sent to the then President of the Parliament Antonio Tajani after ENF group member Marcel de Graaff accused Muslims of “returning Europe back into the Middle Ages” during a plenary debate. Having called for disciplinary measures against de Graaf, the letter said: “His speech was clearly based on Islamophobic rhetoric and is an unacceptable behaviour on hate speech and incitement to hatred for an MEP.”

Last year, Romania’s Christian Terhesch (ECR), Denmark’s Anders Vistisen (ID) group, and Italy’s Isabella Adinolfi (EPP) were reported to President Metsola for ‘hate speech’ by three left-wing female colleagues following a debate on gender-based violence, in which they described transsexual women as “male perverts” and claimed that the legal recognition of the existence of transgender women is “the biggest threat to women”.

“It is our firm belief,” MEPs Malin Björk, Evin Incir and Samira Rafaela said in their letter, “that the European Parliament… needs to put its foot down and show that it does not tolerate this kind of hate speech in its chamber.”

More recently, Spanish MEP López-Istria White, who served as the secretary general of the EPP for two decades, was accused of breaching European Parliament rules and proceedings regarding “inappropriate behaviour” and “hate speech” having allegedly “insulted” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, MEPs from the centre and the left groups, the president of the socialist group (S&D) Iratxe García Pérez, and civil servants during a plenary session in December.

In perhaps the most troubling development to date, last November the European Parliament accepted the recommendation of its legal affairs committee (JURI) to strip four right-wing Polish MEPs of their immunity following allegations they incited hatred against migrants during the country’s 2018 local elections.

Previously, the European Parliament had been clear that MEPs cannot be subject to any form of legal proceedings deriving from opinions expressed in their official capacity.

Now, however, Beata Mazurek and Tomasz Poręba – from Poland’s ruling party PiS – and Beata Kempa and Patryk Jaki- part of PiS’ junior coalition partner Suwerenna Polska – will be prosecuted in Warsaw for the ‘crime’ of liking and sharing a social media video which used clips from TV stations across Europe to link “enclaves of Muslim refugees” with sexual assaults and violent attacks while suggesting that a win for Polish opposition party Civic Coalition would lead to an influx of migrants, making residents “afraid to go out on the streets after dark”.

The MEPs argue that the indictment, brought by a Polish NGO that has previously received funding from organisations linked to George Soros, is an attack against freedom of speech.

Speaking on behalf of the four MEPs, MEP Patryk Jaki said: “The showed excerpts of incidents with migrants, shown on TV stations across Europe, so banning MEPs from what is not banned in Europe would be a blow to the freedom of public debate.”

“The case is therefore about freedom of speech, which is what immunity was established for,” he added.

The European Parliament’s crackdown on right-wing debating points comes amid predictions that populist parties are heading for big gains in June’s European elections.

According to the European Council on Foreign Relations, “anti-European populists” are likely to top the polls in nine member states (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia) and come second or third in a further nine countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden), making a right-wing majority in the EU Parliament a distinct possibility.