Libera! is an independent non-partisan think tank in the Flemish region of Belgium fostering the values of a free society in general and the protection of private property rights in particular. The safeguarding of individual liberty and the defense of Western civilisation are the core tenets of Libera!’s philosophy.
Think tank Libera! publishes academic studies, policy papers and articles on a regular basis. Furthermore, monthly events and activities are also organised, ranging from public debates and evening discussions, through formal banquets and international conferences, to private dinners and working luncheons with policymakers.
Libera! is affiliated with several transnational networks and foreign partners. All international engagements, however, must always support – and remain at the service of – the think tank’s national agenda, which is the main focus and scope of Libera!’s operations.
Think tank Libera! – deeply rooted in the broader, much more ancient, classical-liberal philosophical and political tradition of Flanders – was incorporated as a non-profit organisation under Belgian law in the spring of 2010.
From the research institute “Ludwig von Mises” in the 1980s, to the political club “Nova Civitas” of the 1990s and 2000s and more recent think tank projects such as “Cassandra”, Flanders has always had an intellectual undercurrent based around the general principles of liberal-conservatism and classical-liberalism. Libera! aims to honour this intellectual legacy.
Libera! is governed by a Board of Directors and a General Assembly. A dedicated team of volunteers, external contractors and Fellows is responsible for all activities and publications, and conducts all research projects.
Vincent De Roeck, a private business owner, currently serves as President. Boudewijn Bouckaert, a law professor and former MP, is the honorary chairman.
Libera! has an academic advisory board, consisting out of leading academics and journalists, as well as key people from the political sphere and the business community, including the current Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, former editor-in-chief of the financial-economic magazine Trends Frans Crols, and the renowned professors Matthias Storme, Frank van Dun and Lode Vereeck.
In 1994, Nova Civitas was created in the wake of the foundation of a new classical-liberal political party in Belgium, the Flemish Liberal Democrats or VLD. Nevertheless, the think tank manifested itself from the outset as independent from any political party. This became obvious when Nova Civitas strongly criticised the far-reaching concessions the VLD made to the Walloon Socialists in the second government of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
In 2009, the directors of Nova Civitas decided to broaden the radius of its activities by putting more emphasis on study work and publications, instead of just public debates, and by attracting new members. To this end, a new association was set up in 2010 and a new name, Libera!, was adopted. The organisations Nova Civitas and Cassandra were subsequently dissolved and merged into the new outfit.
Prize for Liberty
The Prize for Liberty (Prijs voor de Vrijheid in Dutch), sometimes referred to as the Liberty Award, is an annual award bestowed upon a person for propagating classical-liberalism and the values of a free society in his/her life and work.
So far, the Prize for Liberty, has been awarded to the following persons:
- Rik Torfs (2023), former rector of KU Leuven
- Boudewijn Bouckaert (2022), law and economics professor, former Libera! president
- Lieven Annemans (2021), health economist
- De Strangers (2020), political-satirical folk band
- Marc De Vos (2019), founder of the Itinera Institute
- Thierry Baudet (2018), Member of Parliament for the FVD
- Hans Bourlon and Gert Verhulst (2017), founders of Studio 100
- Fernand Huts (2016), chairman of Katoen Natie
- Jean-Marie Dedecker (2015), former Senator and MP, founder and party leader of LDD
- Peter De Keyzer (2014), chief economist of BNP Paribas Fortis
- Frank van Dun (2013), libertarian philosopher and legal scholar
- Johan Van Overtveldt (2012), editor-in-chief of Knack and Trends
- Theodore Dalrymple (2011), conservative columnist and social critic
- Frits Bolkestein (2010), former European Commissioner for the Internal Market
- Mark Grammens (2009), conservative journalist
- Urbain Servranckx (2008), comedian and entertainer
- Derk Jan Eppink (2007), liberal-conservative journalist
- Alain Destexhe (2006), Senator for the MR
- Matthias Storme (2005), conservative thinker and law professor
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2004), Member of Parliament for the VVD
- Luuk van Middelaar (2003), liberal philosopher and publicist
From 2003 to 2009, the Prize for Liberty was awarded annually by the Flemish classical liberal political club Nova Civitas. Since 2010, the recognition is awarded by the think tank Libera!.
Winners traditionally tend to be Flemings or Dutch, but with past honourees Alain Destexhe and Theodore Dalrymple, French-speaking Belgians and Britons have also been awarded the Prize for Liberty.
The winner is expected to deliver a traditional acceptance address at the award ceremony, called the “Gustave de Molinari Lecture”, named in the honour of French-Belgian liberal philosopher Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912).