Philip Houben, former Mayor of Maastricht, died on Sunday morning in his place of residence following a short battle with cancer.
Born in The Hague, Houben was considered one of the best Maastricht mayors. He held that position during three periods in office from 1985 to 2002.
The European Summit of 1991 was an absolute high point for Philip Houben. Together with former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, he welcomed to the town hall several renowned European leaders including French President François Mitterrand, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and British Prime Minister John Major.
After the European Council meeting of 1981, Maastricht initially had little hope of hosting a second European Summit. However, Mayor Houben invited the responsible officials from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Château Neercanne to share the experiences gained in Maastricht during the 1981 summit. When he became aware that the ministry had doubts about the candidacy of other Dutch cities, he rapidly compiled a bid book together with the provincial authorities and managed to convince the powers in The Hague to hold the 1991 summit in the Limburg capital too. That certainly benefited the city, because at that summit a decision was taken to introduce the single currency, which later became the euro and led to the world famous Maastricht Treaty, which gave the city huge international renown that it still enjoys.
As Mayor, Houben was responsible for security in the city and its surroundings. When he learned that farmers from French-speaking Belgium were planning to disrupt the traffic in Maastricht, he instructed the Dutch Border Policy to block the access roads with tanks.