The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » Monthly - October 31, 2013
Belgium in Poland
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Insider’s View of the EU
   
A Polish-language version of an autobiography by former long-serving Belgian prime minister Wilfried Martens, has been published by the Unicorn publishing house.

Martens, who died Oct. 10, is widely regarded as one of the founders of the European Union. He served as Belgian prime minister nine times and became the leader the European People’s Party. Martens planned to attend the official launch of the Polish edition of his book Sept. 16 in Katowice, but serious health problems forced him to cancel the trip three days before the event.

Compared to the popular English-language version of Martens’ autobiography, entitled Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome, the new edition contains an expanded and updated chapter on Poland. Martens writes about Solidarity and martial law in the early 1980s and mentions figures such as Lech Wałęsa, Wojciech Jaruzelski, Mieczysław F. Rakowski, Donald Tusk, Jerzy Buzek, Waldemar Pawlak and Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.

The book goes behind the scenes and gives an insider’s view of the jockeying for influence and for senior positions in EU organizations by parties and countries. Martens describes in detail how José Manuel Barroso worked his way to become the president of the European Commission, how Silvio Berlusconi and Forza Italia rose to prominence in Italy, and how Jacques Santer was forced to resign as head of the European Commission. Martens also recounts his endless skirmishes with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the dominant position of Germany as EU member states struggled to protect their national interests.

The book recounts the distance Martens covered during the course of his career, which took him from his home village near Ghent to top posts in Belgium and the EU. According to Martens, he always had to struggle and overcome adversities. In Belgium, his home country, Martens was respected by the king, leading politicians and ordinary citizens for his remarkable ability to reach a compromise. But at the same time, his unconventional private life exposed him to attacks in the press and from conservatives. The most controversy surrounded his marriages. He married his third and last wife in a church ceremony in April this year.

Martens will be remembered as a staunch advocate of close integration of states within the EU and as a pragmatist who demanded subsidiarity on all levels of public life. Martens’ faith in these goals and his perseverance in pursuing them gave him strength as he carved out a career in his conflicted homeland and on the international arena.

Barbara Skrobiszewska-Samborska

The Polish edition of the book is available in bookstores and online at www.unicorn-sme.org.