(ˈβ̞ɪlfɾiˑt ˈmɑɾtəns; born Wilfried Achiel Emma Martens
, 19 April 1936) is a Belgian
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...
. He was born in Sleidinge
Evergem is a municipality located in the Belgian province of East Flanders. The municipality comprises the towns of Belzele, Doornzele, Ertvelde, Evergem proper, Kerkbrugge-Langerbrugge, Kluizen, Rieme, Sleidinge and Wippelgem. On January 1, 2006 Evergem had a total population of 32,244...
East Flanders is a province of Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium. It borders on the Netherlands and in Belgium on the provinces of Antwerp, Flemish Brabant , of Hainaut and of West Flanders...
). Martens was the 44th Prime Minister of Belgium
from 3 April 1979 to 6 April 1981 and 17 December 1981 to 7 March 1992.
Martens was a Chair of the Belgian Christian People's Party (now renamed Christian Democratic and Flemish party (CD&V)) from 1972–79, sitting as a Deputy in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives (federal parliament) from 1974–91, and serving as a Senator from 1991 – 94.
He co-founded the European People's Party
The European People's Party is a pro-European centre-right European political party. The EPP was founded in 1976 by Christian democratic parties, but later it increased its membership to include conservative parties and parties of other centre-right perspectives.The EPP is the most influential of...
(EPP) in 1976 and has been EPP President since 1992.
From 1993 he was President of the European Union of Christian Democrats (EUCD), until its merger with the EPP in 1996. Martens also negotiated with Finnish conservative politician Sauli Niinistö
Sauli Väinämö Niinistö is a Finnish politician from National Coalition Party. He is also President of the Football Association of Finland. A lawyer by training, he was Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2003 and the National Coalition Party candidate in the 2006 presidential election...
the merger of the European Democrat Union
The European Democrat Union is one of the two European wings of the International Democrat Union, along with the European People's Party . Its members include Christian democratic, liberal conservative, and conservative political parties...
(EDU) into the EPP (formally concluded in 2002). The successful fusion of all center-right European organizations into the EPP – currently the largest transnational European political party
A European political party, formally a political party at European level, informally a Europarty, is a type of political party organization operating transnationally in Europe and in the institutions of the European Union. They are regulated and funded by the European Union and are usually made up...
with 71 member-parties from 38 countries – is widely recognized as an important achievement of his European political legacy.
From 1994 to 1998, he was a Member of the European Parliament, chairing the EPP Group.
From October 2000 to November 2001 he was also the President of the Christian Democrat International (CDI).
He re-appeared on the Belgian political stage on 22 December 2008 to help in the 2007–2011 Belgian political crisis.
Martens holds a doctorate in law, a degree in notarial studies, as well as a baccalaureate in Thomistic philosophy from the Catholic University of Louvain. He also studied international political science at Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...
. He has practised law at the Ghent Court of Appeal.
Among numerous national and international distinctions, he was honoured in 1998 with the Charles V Prize for his contribution to European Union.
Martens has five children: two from his first marriage with Lieve Verschroeven (Kris and Anne) and three with Ilse Schouteden (Sarah, Sophie and Simon) whom he met in 1988 while she was an assistant working in his cabinet. After the birth of their twins in 1997 they married on 13 November 1998. Ilse Schouteden has a son from her previous marriage. In 2007 he divorced his second wife. On 27 September 2008 he married his ex-mistress from the 1970s Miet Smet
Miet Smet is a Belgian politician for the Christian Democratic and Flemish party .Miet Smet was the founder and first president of the Christian People's Party political women's organisation, Vrouw en Maatschappij .She was elected to the Belgian Chamber of People's Representatives in 1978...
, a former Belgian minister. It was his third marriage and her first.