Classical Liberal Flemish Students' Association

Young people in Belgium are highly interested in the political scene of their country, for that reason many of them are getting involved in different political-ideological student unions. A large number of political parties organise their students’ departments. For example, in Flanders and Brussels JongSocialisten refers to SP.A (Social Democratic Party), Jong CD&V is connected with CD&V(Christian-Democratic Party), Jong Groenis the young branch of the Green Party, Jong VLD is the young branch of Open VLD (Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats), Jong N-VA is the part of N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) and Comac is related to PVDA (Workers’ Party of Belgium).

What are unique about three unions like KVHV (Catholic Flemish Students’ Union), NSV (Nationalist Student Association) and LVSV (Classical Liberal Flemish Students Association) that they are totally independent from any political parties. LVSV is the oldest students association in Belgium and in the world that has promoted pro-liberty thinking among young people for 84 years!

LVSV  is a student’s political and philosophical union that adheres to liberal principles. It is bringing together Dutch speaking students from 5 cities in Flanders: Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven and Hasselt. The main aim of LVSV is to raise political debates, discussions and share the large part of liberal political spectrum among the members of the union. Firstly, LVSV opposes collectivistic ideologies and defends individual freedom, free trade, democracy, human rights and equal opportunities. As it was already mentioned, LVSV is independent of any parties in Belgium, although they watch over the policy that pursue liberal parties in Flanders such as Open VLD (Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats) and LDD (Libertarian, Direct, Democratic). In November 2013 LVSV attended the Future Congress of Open VLD, where it submitted 26 pages with amendments.

LVSV was established in 1930 due to the policy of Ghent University, which was the first university in Flanders where faculties with Dutch as an academic language appeared. This fact helped Dutch-speaking students develop a Flemish political student union. Previously, liberal values and thoughts in Belgium had been a "monopoly" of the French-speaking bourgeoisie.  LVSV wanted to change the situation in order to show that people from middle-class families could be liberal as well. In 1937 was established the department of LVSV in Brussels. In 1947 the LVSV department was founded in Antwerp. During the Second World War as the LVSV members united against communism and fascism, some of them suffered from the deportation to Germany.

After the war, LVSV continued their work with the double energy as it was a turbulent period for the history of Belgium, defending and promoting liberal views in the crisis situations. In the 70-ties LVSV had the same aims as the liberal party of that time The Party for Freedom and Progress (PVV), which headed in the 80s Guy Verhofstadt, former member of the LVSV Ghent and current leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). In 1973 the 4rd department of LVSV was established in Leuven. In 2009 the 5th department of LVSV appeared in Hasselt.

At the end of 2012 the former spindoctor of the Open VLD Noël Slangen described LVSV “as a dangerous, extreme and dissident group of yuppies, a sort of Tea party”. The union reacted on this statement immediately: “LVSV is nobody’s wife. But we can calm Mr. Slangen that we absolutely don’t have the ambition ever to become the Tea Party”. The president of LVSV at that moment Michiel Rogiers also commented in the Flanders newspaper De Morgen “We should be an especially bad Tea party. And it is a bit ridiculous as LVSV unites the liberals from the whole spectrum: from left-wing liberals to the anarchists”.

LVSV is a well-organized student’s union and we can see it due to the serious management teams in every city department. LVSV Brussels – second oldest department of LVSV after Ghent that organizes political activities in the heart of Europe. Famous Belgian politicians were members of LVSV in the past. Belgium's Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2004 to 2009 and then European Commissioner for Development & Humanitarian Aid from 2009 to 2010, Karel de Gucht  was the President of LVSV Brussels in 1974-1975 and of National LVSV in 1975-1976. National department of LVSV unites all 5 local departments. Patrick Dewael, Minister-President of Flanders from 1999 to 2003, was the President of LVSV Brussels in 1977-1978. In the honor edition of the LVSV Brussels newspaper Blauwzuur (2012-2013) he acknowledged gratefully: “LVSV is very dear to my heart. That is where I caught the first political microbe at first in the Brussels department and then in the National”.

Although most of the political events are led in Dutch, LVSV activities can attract foreigners or expats that live in Brussels as LVSV succeeds in providing high level political discussions. On 14th May 2013 LVSV Brussels hosted a marvelous debate “A new Europe in sight?” between MEP Nigel Farage (UKIP, EFD) and Prof. Rudy Aernoudt, the Head of Cabinet of the President of the European Economic and Social Committee. The video from the debate gained 3,196 views and 27 comments on YouTube.

At the end of the study year, in spring the union is organising the elections of the LVSV management team in every city. This year the president of LVSV Brussels was elected Wouter van Kempen, bachelor in International Business at Zuyd University, the Netherlands. He is currently studying Psychology at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). The newly elected president answered some important questions about LVSV for OneEurope below. 

OneEurope: What made you decide to join LVSV in Brussels? For how long are you a member of the union?

Wouter van Kempen: On campus of VUB I saw a poster from LVSV about the lecture of Jan Denys (Manager from the Dutch multinational human resource consulting firm Randstad). I'd read his opinion articles before and I knew that it would be interesting.  I decided to go and in this manner I established my connection with LVSV. Next year will be my third year in LVSV and it will be in the role of the president. Before I worked as a board member, then the year after that I worked as a secretary.

1E: How many members count the board of LVSV in Brussels and what special events do you organize in your department?

WvK: We number 12 members in the board that promote actively liberty on campus. Besides, we succeeded in attracting about 300 people at our opening debate and in general 30 - 40 people were showing up for our events during this year. We have also early traditions in organizing the Galabal LVSV Brussels and this autumn it will be our 11th ball. We invite every member of every chapter and then those who are interested to come to Brussels enjoy a fine dinner followed by a soirée. Moreover, we host every year HDC football cup which was named after Herman de Croo, Minister of State and also a former president of LVSV Brussels. All LVSV chapters come that day and play a match of football .

1E: Will you go digital with your historical LVSV Brussels newspaper Blauwzuur? Do you also plan to publish something in English for foreigners who are also passionate about liberty?

WvK: Yes, I had the idea last year, because the paper version is a bit old fashioned. Of course, we can keep the Galabal edition (once per year) alive as a tradition. But mostly ideas are spread out via the internet and social media. It is certainly cheaper to do so! Our audience is mainly Dutch speaking, since we are part of the VUB (Free University of Brussels). But let's say that if an article gets enough international attention than we can surely do this. We have also organized some of our past events in English (Nigel Farage vs. Rudy Aernaert & Future of the EU with Frits Bolkestein) and we can probably continue this experiment, but we should not forget our roots: the students at the VUB.

1E: What does it mean for you to become the president of LVSV Brussels?

WvK: Well, it feels mostly the same as we do a lot of things together. Of course, I would be the one responsible in the end, so I will keep in control and be up to date on current affairs. Although my main goals consists in organizing an academic year with exciting political activities for pro-liberty students and try to leave LVSV better than how I received it from my predecessor.

1E: LVSV is the association where many liberal politicians started their career, such as Patrick Dewael, Karel de Gucht, Guy Verhofstadt. Would you like to make a political career as well?

WvK: Well, I have given the idea of such a career a lot of thought, but most of these politicians have meticulously planned their careers from graduation to the point of an election that they were surely to win. I don’t know if I want such a life of constraints.

1E:Do you see some evident future politicians in the other presidents of LVSV departments?

WvK: Certainly I can see some talented young liberals in our organization. Some members after their time within LVSV join Open VLD or other political parties. The whole idea is that we are free from the control or influence from political parties. We are independent and do not receive any government or political funding. Unlike for example COMAC (the socialist/communist student association) which is directly funded by PVDA, the workers’ party in Belgium.

Photo credits: LVSV