We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wilfried Martens, one of Europe’s great statesmen and a strong supporter of the transatlantic relationship. He presided over a period of great importance for U.S.-Belgian relations, a period which saw the fall of the Berlin wall, the transformation of the NATO alliance, and the launching of a new phase of political renovation in Europe.
His steady hand at the helm of the Belgian government, over a span of thirteen years, was a defining element of this vital period of challenges and opportunities. He provided a voice of moderation and consensus for Europe and the U.S. during a critical juncture in our relationship, even while overseeing profound transformations in Belgium’s constitutional structure as it evolved from a unitary to a federal state.
It is a testimony to the deep respect and esteem with which he was held by his colleagues in Europe that Wilfried Martens went on to found and to lead the largest political grouping in European politics, thereby enabling him to bring his deep belief in the European project to a higher level and to play a central role in the expansion and strengthening of European institutions.
He will be remembered with fondness and gratitude by the American people as a key unifying figure in the transatlantic community of shared values and democratic traditions.