He was born in Soignies.
In March 1935 he became Prime Minister of a government of national unity (a coalition comprising the three major parties: Catholics, Liberals and Socialists). Given decree powers, he was able to abate the economic crisis the country was going through, by devaluing the currency and resorting to expansive bugdetary policies.
Van Zeeland's government resigned in the spring of 1936 due to the agitation of REX (a Belgian fascist party), but was able to start a new term (June 1936-November 1937). After proclaiming martial law, the government was able to suppress the Rexists. The second Van Zeeland government carried through a progressive social reform programme, introducing the 40-hour working week and measures against unemployment, which helped to ease the political tensions. Also during his second term, Belgium gave up its military alliance with France and reverted to its traditional "neutrality" policy, now dubbed "policy of independence".
In 1939, Van Zeeland became president of the Committee on Refugees, established in London, and in 1944 he was made High Commissioner for the repatriation of displaced Belgians. After the war he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in several Catholic governments between 1949 and 1954, and as economic advisor to the Belgian government and to the council of ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In 1946, he was one of the founders of the European League for Economic Cooperation.
|Preceded by :
Charles de Broqueville
|Prime Minister of Belgium||Succeeded by