Jean-Luc Dehaene dies

The former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene has died aged 73. Mr Dehaene died in France on Thursday as a result of a fall. The Christian democrat politician led Belgium’s Federal Government for almost 8 years from 1991 until 1999. He was Mayor of his adopted home town of Vilvoorde (Flemish Brabant) between 2000 and 2007 and was a Euro MP.

Mr Dehaene was born in the southern French city of Montpellier on 7 August 1940. Later that year he and his family returned to the West Flemish city of Bruges where he spent most of his youth.

He was educated at Jesuit Sint-Jozefcollege in Aalst (East Flanders) and the universities of Namur and Leuven. His first leadership function was as head of the Flemish Catholic Scouting Movement.

Mr Dehaene married Celie Verbeke in 1965. They had 4 children, including the Christian democrat politician Tom Dehaene. Jean-Luc Dehaene’s long climb to the top of Belgian politics began with the Christian Workers Movement ACW and in the youth wing of the Flemish Christian democrat party (then CVP, currently CD&V).

He worked his way up through the ranks as an assistant in the offices of several Flemish Christian democrat minister during the 1970’s.

Mr Dehaene became a minister himself for the first time in 1981. After the fall of the 6th Wilfried Martens government in 1987, Mr Dehaene was charged with the according to many all but impossible task of steering Belgium away from the brink. In one of his most famous quotes Mr Dehaene is reported to have said to the King Boudewijn “Sire, give me 100 days”.

106 days later on 6 May 1988 the man known affectionately as the “Plumber” had managed to bring the parties from both sides of the linguist divide back together and the 7th Wilfried Martens cabinet was ready to take office.

The reform of Belgium and the Euro

Two of Jean-Luc Dehaene's greatest achievements during his time as Belgian Prime Minister were the reforms that saw Belgium become a federal country and the measures his governments took to ensure that Belgium would be able to join the Euro.

Mr Dehaene's tenure as Prime Minister ended after the 1999 Federal Election when his Christian democrat party suffered a big defeat. Just weeks before the election a major food scandal broke after it was revealed that meat and eggs on sale in the shops here were infected with dioxins.

Mayor and MEP

After the 1999 elections Mr Dehaene remained a Senator and in 2000 took part in the local elections in Vilvoorde where he became Mayor.

Mr Dehaene was elected a Euro MP in 2004. In recent years, the former King Albert enlisted the help of Mr Dehaene to try and find a way out of the political impasses after the 2007 and 2010 general elections.

Earlier this year Jean-Luc Dehaene was diagnosed with pancreas cancer. However, it was not cancer, but a fall while on a visit to France that saw the former Prime Minister meet his end.