The European People’s Party (EPP) paid tribute to its former president, the late Wilfried Martens, at its party congress in Dublin yesterday (6 March). Praising his legacy, the party announced it would rename its foundation the ‘Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies’.
The EPP unveiled the new name for its political foundation in Dublin on Thursday (6 March). The Centre for European Studies (CES) is renamed Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, or ‘Martens Centre’.
The party also unveiled the centre's new logo, integrating the letter ‘M’, and changing its motto to “The legacy lives on”. Since Thursday, the centre’s website can also be accessed via martenscentre.eu.
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. He led nine Belgian coalition governments between 1979 and 1992, furthering the reform of Belgium into a federal state and tackling the 1981-1982 economic crisis by introducing reforms and devaluation.
“Wilfried Martens created the whole structure of the CES – now Martens Centre,” Tomi Huhtanen, director of the Centre, told EURACTIV. “Values like the social market economy and many fields that we research came directly from his inspiration.”
“He was the founding father of our foundation,” says the head of communications, José Luis Fontalba. “We felt we had to pay tribute to him and the inspiration he brought. When he passed away, we felt the political loss within CES, but also a human grievance: Martens was very involved in the work of the centre, almost like a father overlooking carefully our work.”
The political foundation was established in 2007. It serves as a think-tank and policy study centre for the party and is also involved in drafting the party’s common manifesto for the election campaign.
Several key politicians of the political family also praised the former president in their speeches in Thursday's plenary meeting. “We have to build on the legacy that Martens left for us,” EPP secretary general and MEP Antonio López-Istúriz White told the delegates.
On Friday, the party grants a post-mortem 'EPP Merit Award' to Martens. The award will be accepted by his widow, Miet Smet, a member of the Belgian christian-democrat party CD&V and Martens' third wife.
Party members also confirmed Joseph Daul as Wilfried Martens’ successor, in a plenary vote at the congress on Thursday (6 March). Daul, who took on the role of interim president after Martens’ death, was confirmed by 512 ‘yes’ votes versus 44 ‘no’ votes. The French politician thanked the delegates, saying he “will try not to disappoint you”.
Martens, a former Belgian prime minister, co-founded the EPP party in 1976 and served as its president from 1990 to 2013. He died last October, at the age of 77, after deteriorating health issues.
At the time of his death, EU political figures expressed their mourning, calling him one of Europe’s great leaders.