Brussels – As some personalized licence plates with antisemetic and Nazi references are making it past the censor of Belgium’s Department of Vehicles Registration (DIV), a proposal has been tabled to allow authorities to withdraw these plates.
Cars with licence plates “HH-88” (which makes reference to the Nazi salute and a numerical code for the same Nazi phrase) and “1-RAS-88” (‘Een ras’, translation: ‘one race’) were spotted on Belgian roads in recent months, but these antisemitic license plate cannot be unilaterally withdrawn by the government, said Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet.
“I was as shocked as anyone by this licence plate,” Gilkinet said in response to a parliamentary question from Federal MP for the Flemish rightwing N-VA party Michael Freilich. “At my request, the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Mobility has contacted the holder of this plate and steps are being taken to change it.”
In principle, those who want to pay €1,000 for a personalised number plate must first obtain approval from the DIV. But that system is clearly not watertight and some racist, discriminatory or in this case anti-Semitic plates make it past censors.
Asked why the government cannot withdraw number plates if they are already in circulation, Gilkinet cited the need for a Royal Decree to allow the official deletion of a registration plate “solely because of the inscription.”
Freilich told Het Laatste Nieuws that he wants to change this: “We have to change the law so that administrators can withdraw number plates. This will send a clear signal that racism and anti-Semitism will never be tolerated.”
Freilich said that it would be impossible to compile an exhaustive list of racist, discriminatory or antisemitic “Since human creativity knows no bounds”. He added that “those with malicious intent will always be able to avoid it. New memes may emerge that are not yet known today.”
The N-VA faction in the Chamber is pushing to write a new legislative text as Gilkinet initially only wants to improve the filtering of plates “with the help of external experts.”