Van Zeeland, Paul

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Van Zeeland, Paul

Paul Van Zeeland (pōl vän zā´länt), 1893–1973, Belgian political leader. He was a professor of law and later director of the institute of economic science at the Univ. of Louvain and vice governor of the national bank of Belgium. In 1935 he was made prime minister of a government of national unity. Given decree powers, he weathered the Belgian economic crisis by stringent measures that included devaluation of the currency. In 1936, he instituted reform and social legislation and suppressed the turbulent Rexists (the Belgian fascists) after proclaiming martial law. In his administration Belgium denounced (1936) its military alliance with France, reverting to its policy of neutrality, and received (1937) a German guarantee of its inviolability. In 1937, accused by the Rexists of political corruption, Van Zeeland was completely exonerated. Nevertheless, he resigned his post. He remained an unofficial adviser and in 1938 vainly urged a conference of the great powers to restore international economic cooperation. In 1939 he became president of the committee on refugees, established at London, and throughout World War II he continued to work for international economic cooperation. Van Zeeland was made (1944) high commissioner for the repatriation of displaced Belgians. A leader of the Catholic party, he later served as foreign minister in several cabinets and also as a financial adviser to the Belgian government and to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's council of ministers.

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