TU/e professor joins Vlaams Belang Zoersel

Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reported on Friday 25 June that TU/e professor Tom Van Woensel joined local political party Vlaams Belang Zoersel. The reason is because Van Woensel is dissatisfied with the current level of political competence in his village. Van Woensel says that he only wants to offer his expertise to further substantiate local policy. He claims not to aspire to a political role.

“Please don’t make too much out of it,” Van Woensel says when Cursor asks him about the article published in Het Nieuwsblad on Friday, 25 June. The article was largely based on a video Van Woensel recorded in which he explained to the people of Zoersel why he decided to join Vlaams Belang Zoersel. The video appeared on YouTube last Friday.

In the video, Van Woensel expresses his frustration with politics in Zoersel, a small village east of Antwerp. Van Woensel says the following in the video: “I’ve been following the municipal council meetings in Zoersel for some time now. I was deeply shocked to learn of the level of competence of our administrators. Proposals are rejected without any kind of serious debate, simply because they were issued by the wrong party. The majority takes unsubstantiated positions, without broad support, and without a healthy financial plan. Surely, that’s not what politics is about? A person can do two things: remain indignant and do nothing, or put an effort into a project and choose for positive energy.”

More substantiated

The only thing Van Woensel wants to say about his decision to join Vlaams Belang’s local branch in Zoersel, is that he offered a party member, with whom he is acquainted, to help substantiate local policy. Van Woensel: “Think of dead-end streets or traffic density. I won’t be politically active in any other way whatsoever. The media outside my village made a far greater deal out of it than they should have.”

Van Woensel, who presents himself in the video as a professor at TU/e and a lecturer at Antwerp Management School, says that his membership is of no relevance for his work at TU/e. He doesn’t want to say more, also when asked about the ideology of Vlaams Belang, the nationalist, right wing populist party for which Vlaams Belang Zoersel operates as a local branch. In Belgium, other political parties usually refuse to cooperate with Vlaams Belang, a strategy known as ‘cordon sanitaire.’

Het Nieuwsblad also quotes Wouter Bollansée, chair of Vlaams Belang Zoersel. He says that “it goes without saying that our party is honored by his (Van Woensel’s, ed.) commitment to politics in Zoersel. Especially since Tom doesn’t speak from an academic ivory tower. Instead, he’s good-humored and has both feet firmly on the ground. Our aim is to have a properly thought-out policy in place for the people of Zoersel by 2024. Breaking the cordon sanitaire is a way to achieve this. It’s not a goal in itself. One is a logical consequence of the other."

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