It is with heavy heart that we heard the news that Minister of State and former Prime Minister of Belgium Mr. Wilfried Martens died on the night of October 9, 2013. Mr. Martens has been a long standing supporter of AWEPA as a member and later also as husband of AWEPA’s President Minister of State Ms. Miet Smet.
Mr. Martens had a doctorate in law, studied international political science at Harvard University and practiced law at the Ghent Court of Appeal.
He served as the 44th Prime Minister of Belgium from 1979 to 1992. Prior to that he was Chair of the Belgian Christian People’s Party (CD&V) from 1972 to 1979, member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives from 1974 to 1991 and served as Senator from 1991 to 1994.
He was co-founder of the European People’s Party (EPP) and served as its President from 1992 until 2013. Among his many other distinctions, he also served as Member of the European Parliament. Internationally, he was also President of the Centrist Democrat International (CDI) from 2000 to 2001. He was a great supporter of the European Union, and was awarded the Charles V (European Award) prize in 1998 for his contributions to the process of integration of the European Union. In his autobiography Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome, he described the inside story on the complexities of running Belgium, the evolution of European unification and the transformation of the EPP into an integrated people’s movement.
His work and perspective on the importance of empowering civil society echoed the core values of AWEPA. At a meeting with AWEPA’s African partners in November 2011, he said “Democracy is the central concept of European political thought. It is the expression of free will. It cannot be imposed from the outside but has to be developed within a society and efforts are needed to deepen it and to maintain democracy.” Mr. Martens’ insights on the development of democracy in European countries are captured in Democracy: cornerstone for development. He practiced what he preached as a dedicated promoter of democracy and unification, and will be sorely missed.
We wish his wife Minister of State Ms. Miet Smet and his children Kris, Anne, Sarah, Sophie and Simon all strength in this difficult time.