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Mark Demesmaeker (Halle, September 12, 1958) is a Flemish politician with the Flemish regionalist party N-VA. Trained as a teacher of Dutch, English and History, from 1991 to 2004, Demesmaeker went on to enjoy a successful television career as reporter for the holiday magazine 'Vlaanderen Vakantieland' (Flanders Holiday) on VRT and then as news anchor for VTM and presenter of the gardening programme 'Groene Vingers' (Green Fingers). Since, Mark Demesmaeker has consistently pursued policies designed to ensure the conservation of the local environment and biodiversity.
In 2004, Demesmaeker was N-VA candidate on a joint list with CD&V in the Flemish elections of that year and was directly elected with 29 284 preference votes. During this period, Demesmaeker actively defended the interests of Brussels and the surrounding Flemish regions. In particular, he took a leading role during the controversy surrounding the status of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV), where he contributed directly to the setting up the Flemish electoral district of Halle-Vilvoorde. During this period, he was also directly involved in the creation of a rapid response team based in the main hospital in Halle, an action that facilitated the activity of the Dutch speaking emergency services in the South-Western region around Brussels.
Halle Local Council
After the 2006 municipal elections, in addition to his responsibilities in the Flemish Parliament, Demesmaeker was elected deputy-mayor in his home city of Halle with responsibility for Flemish Policy, Culture, Tourism, Green Spaces and Environment. In the municipal elections of 2012, he was once again nominated N-VA party leader. Although the single largest party in Halle, N-VA was constrained to sit with the opposition.
Member of the European Parliament
Following the resignation of Frieda Brepoels, who was elected to the post of mayor in Bilzen, Mark Demesmaeker joined the European Parliament as N-VA MEP in February 2013. He was replaced in the Flemish Parliament by Piet De Bruyn. From February 2013 until May 2014, he sat with the Group of the Greens and the European Free Alliance (a group made up of ecologists and moderate regionalist and independentist parties with a centrist or liberal outlook).
In the European elections of 2014, Demesmaeker was re-elected with a resounding majority with 125 000 preferential votes. The N-VA received the greatest share of votes across the Flanders region and was able to send 4 MEPs to the European Parliament, the single largest amount of MEPs ever sent by one party in Flanders to the European Parliament. In June the party moved to the European Conservatives and Reformists group, where Demesmaeker is head of the N-VA delegation.
In the European Parliament Demesmaeker is a full member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and a substitute member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He also sits on the subcommittee on Human Rights, where he is the coordinator for the ECR group.
Human Rights and Self-Determination
Mark Demesmaeker is an ardent defender of universal human rights and of the basic principles of democratic government and self-determination. In the European Parliament he strives to give a voice not only to Flanders, but also to democratic regionalists and nationalists from Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country and elsewhere across Europe.
In general terms, he lends his support to the drive to obtain greater self-determination and to gain recognition the historic languages, identity and cultural specificity of minority groups and small nations. He has a long standing interest in Ireland and Irish affairs and since his arrival in the Parliament, Demesmaeker has been particularly involved with the Basque Friendship Group, an informal group of MEPs that has been working towards a peaceful resolution of conflict in the Basque Country for several years now.
The other major concern pursued by Demesmaeker since arriving in the European Parliament has been his support for a peaceful resolution to the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. In addition to his responsibilities on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Demesmaker is the vice-president of the informal group 'Friends of European Ukraine'.
Present in Kiev during the Maidan Square demonstrations, he responded immediately to the protests resulting from President Yanukovitch's cancellation of the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. He has since followed events in Ukraine closely, travelling several times to witness events on the ground.
Since the outbreak of the outright hostilities between Ukraine and Russian backed separatists, he has visited the front-line twice, visits that have been widely reported across the international media. Predictably, his reports alongside his unwavering support for the Ukrainian people have not been viewed favourably by the Kremlin. On 28 May 2015, Mark Demesmaeker was placed on President Putin's black list of “undesirables” on Russian territory, rendering travel to Russia impossible under the present regime. Sometime later, by the Decree of 21 of August 2015, Demesmaeker was decorated with the "Order of Merit' by the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, for the personal contribution he has made, and continues to make, to supporting Ukraine on its path to reform. This contribution includes his unwavering denunciation of Russian aggression as well as the central role he has played in strengthening dialogue between Ukraine and the EU.