Fugitive Belgian soldier Jürgen Conings found dead

Heavily armed extremist had threatened to kill high-profile virologist.

Fugitive Belgian soldier Jürgen Conings found dead

Belgian police believe a body found Sunday in woodland near the Dutch border is that of fugitive soldier Jürgen Conings, a far-right militant reported to be heavily armed who had been on the run for weeks after threatening to kill health experts and politicians. 

Conings disappeared on May 17 with weapons taken from military barracks where he was stationed, including a rocket launcher, machine gun and several grenades. He left messages for his wife and police laying out his assassination plans and singling out the country’s best-known virologist Marc Van Ranst as a target.

“The threat was very real,” Van Ranst told the BBC earlier this month, from a safe house where authorities had moved him and his family.  

Police on Sunday said the cause of death appeared to be suicide from a firearm, but that was not yet confirmed. The body was found in the Dilserbos woodland in the eastern municipality of Dilsen-Stokkem.

“My thoughts go out to the relatives and children of Jürgen Conings,” Van Ranst tweeted on Sunday. “For them this is very sad news, because they lose a father, a relative or a friend.” 

In an interview with De Morgen, the virologist said there was a sense of “relief,” especially for his 12-year-old son. 

As police led a massive manhunt, Conings became a hero among anti-lockdown campaigners and right-wing extremists.  

Tens of thousands rallied online to back him, with the Facebook group “I love Jürgen Conings” gathering up to 50,000 members before being taken down. Fans gathered for marches, holding banners such as “Jürgen’s life matters” and “As 1 behind Jürgen.” 

Coning’s body was discovered by Johan Tollenaere, mayor of the neighboring municipality of Maaseik, while out cycling in a group. Tollenaere told VTM Nieuws he believed the body was in an advanced state of decomposition, reported De Morgen.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Hungary’s Orbán under fire over call to disempower European Parliament

Sassoli condemns effort aimed at "dismantling" Parliament.

Hungary’s Orbán under fire over call to disempower European Parliament

Prominent members of the European Parliament reacted angrily over the weekend to calls by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to roll back the powers of the EU assembly.

“Only those who do not like democracy think of dismantling parliaments,” David Sassoli, the EP’s president posted on Twitter.

In a speech Saturday, Orbán called for rules to allow national parliaments to suspend the EU’s legislative process, if they find national competences have been infringed.

His calls to disempower the European Parliament came in a speech in which he said the EU’s newly launched Conference on the Future of Europe should be used to stop what he termed the “Sovietization” of the bloc.

“We want a democracy of democracies based on European nations,” Orbán said in a speech to mark 30 years since the departure of Soviet troops from Hungary. “We are nationally based democrats against empire-builders,” he claimed, according to the Infostart news site.

His speech also called for the term “ever closer union” to be deleted from the Treaty on European Union. 

Orbán regularly rails against the EU and European lawmakers are a favored target. In 2018, they triggered the EU’s Article 7 disciplinary procedure against Hungary, arguing Orbán’s government had damaged judicial independence, engaged in corruption, restricted freedom of expression and infringed minority and migrant rights, among other concerns.

“So Viktor Orbán wants to tie the hands of the European Parliament, like he already did with the Hungarian one, and free media, and courts and NGO’s and academics, and, and, and  …” tweeted Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian Prime Minister. 

“There is a pattern, and it leads all the way to a Putinesque dictatorship,” added Verhofstadt,  the European Parliament’s chair on the executive board of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which held its first plenary session Saturday. 

Orbán’s government again clashed with the EU last week, after Hungary’s parliament approved a law banning the portrayal of homosexuality to under-18s.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally issued a rare rebuke, saying she was “very concerned” about the new law and adding that the Commission was “assessing if it breaches relevant EU legislation.”  

“I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity, not one which hides it from our children,” she wrote. 

Source : Politico EU More   

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