Longest-serving Dutch premier, Ruud Lubbers, dies at age 78

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Ruud Lubbers, the Netherlands’ longest-serving prime minister who guided his country through economic turmoil to prosperity and helped shape the foundations of the European Union, has died at age 78.

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

Lubbers headed a conservative administration from 1982 to 1994, trimming back the Dutch welfare state, persuading powerful labor unions to rein in their demands and ushering in years of growth.

However, his international reputation suffered in 2005 when he was forced to step down as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in a sexual harassment scandal.

He was sometimes criticized as too willing to compromise on principles, but supporters say he was a pragmatist and dealmaker.