Tributes abound as Flemish nationalist dies
7 August 2006, BRUSSELS — Flemish politician Hugo Schiltz died in the Antwerp University Hospital on Saturday night. He was 78.
7 August 2006
BRUSSELS — Flemish politician Hugo Schiltz died in the Antwerp University Hospital on Saturday night. He was 78.
The death of the former chairman of the Flemish People's Union or (a moderate nationalist Flemish party) was confirmed by his family.
Schiltz had earlier this year established a new law office with three colleagues, declaring at the time he was in excellent health. Just short of three months later, the Flemish politician died after a short illness.
The Flemish nationalist politician was born on 27 October 1927 in Borsbeek. He was a member of the Flanders National Socialistic Youth (NSJV) which collaborated with the Nazis. His brother fought on the Eastern Front with the Germans.
After the WWII ended, Schiltz spent several months in jail. Later, he studied law and economics in Leuven, establishing himself in 1953 as a lawyer in Antwerp. He served as an Antwerp city councilor for five years.
In 1963, Schiltz joined the Flemish People's Union (known by the abbreviation VU) and became an MP 1965-91 and Senator 1992-95.
He was the party chairman from 1975-79. The VU was the forerunner to the New Flemish Alliance (NV-A).
Schiltz consciously chose to share power and prepared to compromise, much to the displeasure of traditional right-wing Flemish nationalists.
In 1978, Schiltz and the People's Union entered a coalition government to sign to implement the state reforms spelled out in the Egmont Pact
But in the autumn of 1978, the pact collapsed and the VU suffered heavily at the elections. Schiltz was blamed and resigned as party chairman in 1979.
In the second half of the 1980s, Schiltz became one of the great architects of a federalised Belgian state together with Wilfried Martens and Jean-Luc Dehaene. He became an honorary Minister of State in 1995.
In 2001, he walked away from an active political life and started work as a lawyer again, initially working with Ernst & Young and Peeters Advocaten. He later set up his own law office, Laurius.
"The only way for an old man to remain decent is hard work," Schiltz told newspaper 'Het Gazet van Antwerpen' several years ago.
"I am still curious about what happens in the world, this country and in this city. And I feel responsible for the people who introduced me to the legal profession.
"What we have realised together, must not lose momentum. That also applies to politics. Fate has blessed me with health and talent and in exchange for that I want to continue giving a contribution to society.
"Perhaps it is also a sort of boyish revenge on everyone who declared my political death."
Following his death on Saturday, tributes across the political spectrum were offered to Schiltz and his contribution to a modern Belgium.
Flemish Premier Yves Leterme (Christian Democrat CD&V) said Schiltz was "one of the fathers of the present state institutes", stressing that he contributed to greater regional autonomy but also compromises.
Former prime minister Wilfried Martens (CVP — now the CD&V) said Schiltz was a "partner in Flemish emancipation".
Current Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (Liberal VLD) said Schiltz was a "great politician", praising him for setting an example for a tolerant and pluralist Flemish nationalist movement.
Flemish left-wing Spirit minister Bert Anciaux said Schiltz was a "great man" who was an unimaginably important figure for post-war Flemish nationalism.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news