In Belgium, Ikea sues the far-right party Vlaams Belang

A little guy with a flag adorned with the lion of Flanders and another resting his hand on his shoulder, who wears a Viking helmet and a yellow and blue shield. Above the image, the Ikea brand, but diverted to mean “Immigration Kan Echt Anders” (“Immigration is really possible otherwise”).

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The two characters are smiling, but the latest campaign of the far-right Flemish party Vlaams Belang (“Flemish interest”) does not make the Swedish furniture giant laugh. Its Belgian management says “dismayed” and decided, Tuesday, November 15, to take legal action against the powerful xenophobic formation chaired by Tom Van Grieken. The group evokes an attack on its image and its identity, and “formally disapproves of the use of its mark for political purposes”.

Reactive and very present on the networks, the Vlaams Belang was inspired by the program of the Democrats of Sweden, the far-right party which supports the new conservative government of Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. His “kit” of fifteen proposals, accompanied by an “assembly plan”, aims to convince the Flemish population that the party, banned until now from almost all levels of power and separated from other formations by a “cordon sanitaire” , can also be frequentable.

Strict speech, but a little smoother

For the violent speeches which once earned its ancestor, the Vlaams Blok, various convictions for racism and the obligation to rename itself, the party now substitutes a strict but slightly smoother speech, in vogue in Italy or among the Democrats of Sweden.

Clearly inspired by these, it intends to drastically limit family reunification, deprive asylum seekers of free legal aid, allow in-depth examination of their mobile phones or tablets, control their income or facilitate house searches.

Claiming to want to defend the “true” right to asylum, the party also addresses a swipe at the “lobby” which would prevent genuine refugees from obtaining a status. Finally, it intends to expand the list of “safe countries” – considered as not threatening individual freedoms – whose nationals would automatically be excluded from the right to reside in Belgium.

Ikea’s immediate and strong reaction can also be explained by the fact that the group does not want to see the dubious past of its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, come to the surface. The billionaire had, before and after the Second World War, pro-Nazi sympathies and was close to Per Engdahl, the leader of the Swedish Nazi party. In 1998, he expressed his “bitter regrets” about this period of his life.

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