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Eyskens, Gaston (1905–1988)

Belgian politician and premier (1949–1950, 1958–1961, 1968–1972). Born on 1 April 1905 in Lier, Belgium, Gaston Eyskens earned a master's degree from Columbia University and two doctorates, one in economics and the other in political science, from Belgium's University of Louvain. In 1931 he became an economics professor at the University of Louvain. In 1939 he was elected to the Belgian parliament representing the Catholic Party. Following the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940, from 1940 to 1945 he worked in the Belgian government-in-exile in London.

From 1945 to 1949 Eyskens served as Belgian minister of finance. He became premier in 1949 when his Christian Social Party, successor to the Catholic Party, formed a coalition government. When exiled King Leopold III attempted to regain his position in 1950, the coalition fell apart, and Eyskens resigned. During Eyskens's second premiership, from 1958 to 1961, the Belgian government finally settled a long impasse over education by authorizing equivalent funding to state and parochial schools. In 1960, the Belgian Congo was granted independence. Eyskens's second government disbanded in March 1961 after losing the national elections.

Eyskens again became premier in 1968, during which time his government attempted to revise the constitution granting partial autonomy to Flanders and Wallonia. But the government was toppled in 1972 when the Flemish contingent of the Christian Social Party resigned in protest over perceived inconsistencies in the government's application of Flemish cultural prerogatives. After that, Eyskens left the political world and entered the business sector. He died on 3 January 1988 in Louvain.

Edy Parsons


Further Reading
Deprez, Kas, and Louis Vox, eds. Nationalism in Belgium: Shifting Identities, 1780–1995. New York: St. Martin's, 1998.
 

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