Ex-Dutch PM Ruud Lubbers dies at 78

Ruud Lubbers, who was the Netherlands' longest-serving prime minister and helped shape the foundations of the European Union, has died. He was 78.

The Netherlands former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers has died at his home. He was 78.

The Netherlands former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers has died at his home. He was 78.

The Dutch government announced that Lubbers died in Rotterdam surrounded by his wife and children. No cause of death was given.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte hailed Lubbers, who led the Dutch government from 1982 to 1994, as a statesman who dragged the Netherlands through tough economic times.

"With his broad knowledge and experience and his tireless creativity, he knew how to find a solution for every problem," Rutte said on Facebook.

Lubbers trimmed back the Dutch welfare state, persuaded powerful labour unions to rein in their demands and ushered in years of growth.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander, his wife, Queen Maxima and the king's mother, Princess Beatrix, paid tribute to his work for economic and social recovery.

Beatrix was the Netherlands' monarch during Lubbers' time in office and stepped aside for her son in 2013.

"We remember Ruud Lubbers as a great statesman with an impressive sense of responsibility," the royals said in a statement.

Lubbers' international reputation suffered in 2005 when he was forced to step down as UN High Commissioner for Refugees in a sexual harassment scandal. He maintained his innocence even as he resigned.

With the words "Holland is sick," Lubbers argued that generous disability and unemployment benefits had become fiscally unsustainable, and that too many people took advantage of them simply to avoid working.

He struck agreements with unions to limit wage growth in exchange for low unemployment, and curtailed government spending.

"More markets, less government" was a favorite campaign slogan of his.

Sybrand Buma, the current chief of Lubbers' Christian Democrats, called him a leader "who made choices that might not have been popular at the time but were necessary to haul the Netherlands out of crisis."

Lubbers is survived by his wife, Ria Lubbers, with whom he had three children.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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