Leo Tindemans

Leo Tindemans
Prime Minister of Belgium
In office
25 April 1974  20 October 1978
Monarch Baudouin
Preceded by Edmond Leburton
Succeeded by Paul Vanden Boeynants
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
17 December 1981  19 June 1989
Prime Minister Wilfried Martens
Preceded by Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb
Succeeded by Mark Eyskens
President of the European People's Party
In office
8 July 1976  1985
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Piet Bukman
Personal details
Born Leonard Clemence Tindemans
(1922-04-16)16 April 1922
Zwijndrecht, Belgium
Died 26 December 2014(2014-12-26) (aged 92)
Edegem, Belgium
Political party CD&V
Spouse(s) Rosa Naesens
Children Thomas
Alma mater University of Antwerp
Ghent University
Catholic University of Leuven
Religion Roman Catholicism

Leonard Clemence "Leo" Tindemans (Dutch: [ˈleːjoː ˈtɪndəmɑns]; 16 April 1922 – 26 December 2014) was a Belgian politician. He served as the 43rd Prime Minister of Belgium serving from 25 April 1974 until he resigned as minister on 20 October 1978.[1] He was a member of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party.[1]

Early life

Tindemans was born in Zwijndrecht, Belgium, to a Catholic family.

Political career

Early career

Tindemans was affiliated with the CVP. At the time, the party was strong in the northern region of Flanders. Tindemans was elected to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in 1961 and re-elected in 1965, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1977 and 1978. From 1965 to 1973 Tindemans also served as the mayor of Edegem.[2]

In 1968 Tindemans became minister tasked with the relations between the communities (1968–1972) during which he prepared the first constitutional reform which saw Belgium start transforming into a federal state. In 1972 he became minister for agriculture (1972–1973). In 1973 he became deputy Prime Minister and minister for the budget (1973–1974).[2]

Prime Minister (1974–1978)

Tindemans served as Prime Minister of two Belgian governments, from 25 April 1974 to 20 October 1978. His first cabinet was a minority government formed by the Christian-democrats and liberals. When his first government fell in 1977, Tindemans won the snap general election with 983,000 votes, still a record for any election in Belgium.[3] This formed his second cabinet with the Christian-democrats, socialists and Flemish nationalists.[2] His second government (1977–1978) fell due to the controversy surrounding the Egmont pact.[1][2]

He was awarded the Charlemagne Prize 1976.

The Tindemans Report

At the conclusion of the Paris Summit in 1974, Tindemans was tasked with devising a report to define what was meant by the term ‘European Union.’[4] Consulting not only reports drawn up by the European Parliament, European Commission and the European Court of Justice, Tindemans also sought advice from members of European governments and “other powerful forces in the various States.”[4] Tindemans deliberately sought to avoid using the term constitution, and instead referred to his proposals as “a new phase in the history of the unification of Europe which can only be achieved by a continuous process.” Four major areas were outlined in the report: European foreign policy, European economic and social policies, European citizen rights, and the strengthening of existing European institutions.[4]

In regards to a common foreign policy, Tindemans argues that Europe must present itself united outward not only in security, tariffs and trade, but also in an economic sense. He advocated for the creation of a single decision-making centre to handle these issues, and making foreign policy cooperation between member states a legal obligation – Tindemans felt that this role largely would lie within a strengthened Council.[4] He argued for placing the interest of joint action above each country’s own interests, and advocated for placing a delegate responsible for representing a collective Europe’s decisions. In addition, Tindemans placed particular emphasis on strengthening Europe-United States relations, proposing that a delegate be assigned to represent European Union to the United States.[4] Lastly on the foreign policy front, Tindemans advocated for the eventual creation of a common defense policy.[4]

On the economic and social policy front, Tindemans advocated for reigniting discussions about a common economic and monetary policy, which had stalled in Europe during the early 1970s recession. As part of this revival of talks, he also advocated for the consolidation and modification of the snake.[4] He proposed expanding the scope of monetary policy by establishing an internal monetary policy, budgetary policy, and plans for the control of inflation.[4] Tindemans supported abolishing the remaining obstacles to free trade of capital that existed within the European Economic Community. Finally, Tindemans hoped for a citizen’s Europe; he advocated for European civil rights, consumer rights, and protection of the environment.[4] He also pushed for a European passport union, and creation of integrated educational systems. Finally, Tindemans encouraged broad institutional reform, pushing for increased powers to the European Parliament, and overall reform for the European Council, the Council of Ministers, and the European Commission.[4]

Due to economic conditions at the time, the Tindemans report failed to make an immediate impact.[5] Despite this the report generated a request from the Council of Foreign Ministers and the Commission to create an annual progress report on the European Union.[5] In addition, though quite optimistic and federalist in scope, several items which Tindemans advocated for eventually found themselves in the European Union, such as a common economic and foreign policy, as well as symbols for the European Union.[5]

Later career

In 1976, during the founding Congress of the European People's Party in Brussels, he was elected first President of the new party, a role which gave him the important tasks of harmonising and finding consensus between the different leaders and member parties of the EPP and of leading the party during the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979.[2]

Tindemans received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1978.[6]

Tindemans was elected to the European Parliament with a record number of votes (983.000 votes, which is still a record for any election in Belgium) and was a member of that parliament from 1979 to 1981 (during which time he also was chairman of the CVP). With the general elections of 1981 Tindemans returned to the Belgian politics and became minister of foreign affairs (1981–1989).[7] With the European elections in 1989 Tindemans went back to the European Parliament where he served two terms until he retired in 1999. During 1994–1995 he was chairman of the Tindemans group.[1]


Tindemans died on 26 December 2014 in Edegem, Antwerp, Belgium, aged 92.[8][9]



Further reading

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Political offices
Preceded by
Edmond Leburton
Prime Minister of Belgium
Succeeded by
Paul Vanden Boeynants
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