Anyone who examines my career as a politician will probably discover a clear trend running through it: I was a Flemish federalist activist and a student leader, then President of the Christian Democratic youth organisation, Prime Minister of Belgium and after that President of the European People's Party. It seems as if the positions followed each other in easy succession, but in practise these moves were far from obvious. Great resistance had to be overcome with each new step. Chance, personal choices in studies and commitments, power of conviction and changes in the Zeitgeist all played an important role in this.
I took my frst steps in active politics during the golden sixties. Complex processes of emancipation were taking place all over Europe. Widespread student protests were accelerating social, political and cultural change. Old (power) relations were being broken down, traditional norms and values were being openly questioned. Prominent political figures such as Konrad Adenauer in West Germany and Charles De Gaulle in France disappeared from public view. One had the impression that the end of an era was near.