“A Fleming, a Belgian and a European” – leaders pay tribute to former PM Wilfried Martens

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of many Belgian and European leaders who travelled to Ghent last Saturday (October 19) to attend the state funeral of former Belgian prime minister Wilfried Martens.

Speaking in Ghent Cathedral, Merkel said that she had lost a “loyal ally and political friend”. She added that Martens had been a sort of “political father” of the centre-right European People’s Party and that his political ideals had defended freedom, tolerance and solidarity.

A great statesman

The EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso also spoke during the ceremony, describing Martens as “truly a great statesman for Flanders, Belgium, and Europe.” He continued: “Europe has lost a man of strong convictions and solid values. He will be remembered as someone who brought people together to reach a consensus, both in his own country and in Europe.”

The Belgian prime minister Elio di Rupo said that Martens was “a statesman who had made his mark on history.” He had also shown that it was possible to be a committed “Fleming, Belgian and European.”

Some 800 people attended the ceremony in the Cathedral, while a large crowd gathered on the square outside to watch on a large screen. After the state funeral was over, the coffin was taken to be buried in a private ceremony attended by family members at Campo Santo cemetery near Ghent.

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