Wilfried Martens

Martens, Wilfried, 1936–2013, Belgian statesman. A lawyer, Flemish Christian Democrat, and well-respected negotiator, he was president (1965–71) of the youth wing of the Christian People's party and then served as president (1972–79) of the party. Elected to the Belgian lower house in 1971, he served as a representative until his election as a senator in 1991 and retired as a legislator in 1994. In the fractious world of Belgian politics, Martens proved a popular figure and served as prime minister from 1979 to 1992. Fiscally conservative, he survived elections in 1982 and 1987 that focused on economic policy. He also maintained the unity of a country increasingly split by linguistic and economic issues along Flemish and Walloon lines. In Europe, he helped create (along with other European leaders) what would become the European Union. Subsequently, he was active in the development of the European People's party, a grouping of Christian Democrats and other center-right parties, and from 1990 until his death he served as head of the group.

See his autobiography (tr. 2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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