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|Born||Gerolf Emma Jozef Annemans
8 November 1958
- 1 Political career
- 2 Private life
- 3 External links
Annemans read law at the University of Antwerp (UA) and graduated in 1982. During his student days he already displayed a genuine public commitment. He held a seat in the council of the law faculty as well as the UA governing and executive boards, was chief editor of the SW-newspaper and presidium member of Sofia, the guild of the Antwerp law students. In the academic year 1980–1981 Annemans headed the editorial staff of the students' magazine Tegenstroom, club publication of KVHV (Flemish Catholic Students' Society). He also contributed to several columns in the pro-Flemish conservative weekly 't Pallieterke, which he was bound to lead. However, Annemans eventually chose for a career in politics.
Vlaams Blok / Vlaams Belang
In 1985 Gerolf Annemans became a public activist of the Vlaams Blok (renamed Vlaams Belang on 14 November 2004), as he was offered the place of first substitute on the electoral list for the Belgian federal parliament in the constituency of Antwerp. From 1987 onwards, he had a seat in that assembly, and thus is the longest established Vlaams Belang MP. Until 2013 he chaired the Vlaams Belang group. On his watch the party grew from a two-headed group to Belgium's third largest political faction, counting 18 members (after the Belgian federal election, 2003). Furthermore, Annemans is a longstanding member of the city council of Antwerp, a prominent on the Vlaams Belang party board and former director of the Vlaams Belang political research department.
A quarter-century of parliamentary opposition
Annemans is generally considered as a gifted orator, who often comes across in parliament as a most convincing debater. His chief strength is his ability to reveal the intricate connections between different political issues. In his parliamentary work and speeches he often mentions what he calls "the Belgian disease" (the inability of Flemings and Walloons yet to rule together efficiently). His analyses were not always well received by other MP's, though friend and foe share a deep respect for his tenacity and his serene and humane approach to delicate issues. With his typical style Annemans even gained esteem from leading Belgian politicians. However, he hardly managed to benefit from it due to the so-called cordon sanitaire (the unwritten agreement among all other parties not to work together with Vlaams Belang, irrespective of the number of its elected representatives). The cordon sanitaire is viewed by Annemans as a problem that concerns Flanders in its entirety, because it has been imposed on Flemish politics by an alliance of Francophone parties and their Flemish left-wing collaborators. Still, he believes this instrument of threat and coercion will never bring Vlaams Belang to its knees. Annemans has always disputed the argument that a vote for Vlaams Belang therefore is pointless. The role he reserves for his party is that of a consistent, influential opposition party, able to adjust administration when necessary. In this way the party may also function as an alternative to the moderate Flemish-regionalist N-VA, which, in his view, got entirely absorbed by Belgian power politics. Recently, Annemans did not only present himself as a member of the Flemish Movement, but also as a true republican. In doing so, he advocates thorough social reform through Flemish independence, as well as through a far-reaching transformation of the EU on the basis of the sovereignty principle.
Member of investigative and persecutive commissions
In his crusade against what he diagnoses as the "Belgian disease" (in this sense the political-administrative tangle facilitating inefficiency and corruption), he joined several parliamentary commissions for the investigation of scandals and embezzlements. In that capacity, Annemans took part in the Dutroux commission (1996), the commission investigating the "Brabant massacres" (also 1996), the Dioxin affair commission (1999), the Sabena commission (2001) and the two commissions concerning the Fortis affair (2009).
Annemans and Lijst Dedecker
After the federal elections of 10 June 2007, Annemans warned his partisans on his weblog for underestimation of the "Dedecker factor". He did not believe that the then successful Lijst Dedecker (a one man-party founded and presided by Jean-Marie Dedecker) would be a temporary hype such as the former party ROSSEM had been. According to Annemans, Dedecker had "broken the traditional monopoly of VB as the Robin Hood, the big mouth and Lucky Luke which all others fear." Moreover, the Belgian king Albert II received Jean-Marie Dedecker for his consultations following the elections, and not the then VB party chairman Frank Vanhecke. In a political talk show Annemans called it an error to exclude cooperation with Lijst Dedecker.
The orderly split-up of Belgium
In 2010 Annemans announced the publication of a new book in which he would outline a blueprint for the "active preparation of Flemish independence." The main point of this book, that was co-authored by Steven Utsi and released in October 2010, is that the Flemings mustn't cling to concrete road maps for independence, but rather pursue an open strategy. With international law at its side, Flanders already possesses some convincing trumps for dismantling Belgium on its own initiative. For the Flemings, everything will depend on properly reacting against each Francophone move, as well as choosing the right moment for exiting the Belgian federation. The book was edited five times, an English translation titled "After Belgium, the orderly split-up" included, and was sold over 6,000 times, a true bestseller to Flemish standards. The fourth print got outlawed in 2012 by the commercial court of Brussels. The judge ruled that the publication would have violated the rights of the British telecommunications provider O2, because the chemical symbol for oxygen (also the company's logo) figures on its cover. Furthermore, the book inspired Annemans to conceive two manifestoes that gave more depth to the Vlaams Belang platform: the Hoofdstad-Manifest on Brussels (spring 2013) and the Europa-Manifest on the EU (autumn 2013).
With the abovementioned book and manifestoes, Annemans confirms his status of ideological trailblazer. He sees Vlaams Belang as a hotbed of new political viewpoints, even as a social avant-garde. This innovative ambitions also resound in his most recent publication "1914–2014: Van loopgraven tot republiek" (1914–2014: From trench to republic). According to Annemans, the book should not be considered as a political testament, but rather as a 'helicopter perspective' of Flanders' past and the challenges the Vlaams Belang ought to deal with in the twenty-first century. As director of the Vlaams Belang political research department, and afterwards as party chairman, he carried the final responsibility for several election programmes as well as the texts and brochures for ideological congresses and colloquiums. In total, Annemans wrote ten books on republican, ethical and security matters.
Many times he had been alleged to be co-author of the widely despised 70-point plan (Belgium) to stop immigration, though this isn't correct. On the other hand, Annemans has a clear-cut vision on immigration and always insisted on the importance of an elaborate migration chapter in the VB platform. However, his adversaries have created the wrong impression that the Vlaams Blok/Belang repeatedly attempted to launch policy plans based on the 70-point plan. In fact, the plan has been eliminated by the party board many years back.
On 16 December 2012 Annemans was elected chairman of the Vlaams Belang. He succeeded Bruno Valkeniers after an unsatisfactory electoral result. The party had lost over two third of its electorate in its traditional stronghold Antwerp. Annemans' chairmanship was confirmed in a secret ballot by a large majority of 92% of party members. The fresh VB foreman championed a strict migration policy and a revision of EU cooperation, but, above all, voiced more than ever the demand for an independent Flanders.
On 25 May 2014 he was the leading candidate of Vlaams Belang for the European Parliament and was elected as the sole MEP of his party. That day the party suffered a serious defeat, not only at the EU elections, but also in the regional and federal elections. Already on the day after, Annemans announced his retreat and an early chairmanship election in October 2014.
Gerolf Annemans is married and has three children.