Long-serving EPP President Wilfried Martens dies at 77

The former Belgian prime minister and long-serving president of the centre-right European People’s Party Wilfried Martens has died at the age of 77.

Wilfried Martens was one of Belgium’s most renowned politicians and a frontman for the Christian Democrats in Europe since he co-founded the EPP in 1976.

Martens led nine Belgian coalition governments between 1979 and 1992, with only a short interruption in 1981, a record number of years as prime minister for the country. During this period, Martens furthered the reform of Belgium into a federal state and tackled the 1981-1982 economic crisis by introducing reforms and devaluation.

Under his leadership, the EPP has grown into the largest political group in the European Parliament and has enormously influenced EU politics. Amongst others, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and Commission president José Manuel Barroso make part of the EPP political party.

Martens’ deteriorating health had become obvious in recent months. He was hospitalized at the end of August for blood coagulation problems and released on 9 September. Martens then resumed his presidential duties – albeit with additional support from EPP vice-presidents.

On 8 October, he transferred his functions as EPP president to Joseph Daul, the political group’s chairman in the European Parliament.

Martens died last night (9-10 October) at his home in Lokeren, Belgium. He will receive a state funeral on Saturday 19 October in the Saint Bavo cathedral in Ghent.

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