Poul Schlueter, longtime Danish prime minister, dies at 92

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Poul Schlueter, Denmark’s prime minister for over a decade who negotiated exemptions for his country to a key European Union treaty after Danes rejected the initial text in a referendum, has died. He was 92.

Schlueter, who was prime minister from 1982-1993, died Thursday surrounded by his family, the leader of the party that he once headed said Friday in a statement.

“The family has lost a dear member, and our country has lost one of the most important people of our time,” Soeren Pape Poulsen, who heads the opposition Conservatives, said in a statement.

“He was a politician and a human being who has left his mark on the lives of Danes and our common history,” said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in a statement, adding he “always had a twinkle in the eye” and was “an excellent communicator.”

“He was a hugely gifted political person,” she said.

In 1992, Denmark stalled the EU’s move toward a closer cooperation when Danes rejected the Maastricht treaty.

At home, Schlueter negotiated four exemptions, including one that allows Denmark to stay outside the euro. A year later, the revised text was approved in a second Danish referendum, allowing other EU members to move on with their plans.

Schlueter had taken power in 1982 after Social Democrat Anker Joergensen stepped down amid rising foreign debt and deteriorating public finances. The new premier tightened spending and his economic policy. He went on to be the longest-serving Danish prime minister since World War II.

In 1993, Schlueter surprisingly stepped down following an immigration scandal involving his justice minister, allowing the Social Democratic opposition to grab power. He was then elected to the European Parliament, where he sat from from 1994 to 1999.

A lawyer by education, Schlueter is survived by his second wife, Anne Marie Vessel Schlueter, and his son from his first marriage, Peter. A funeral is planned for next week in Copenhagen.

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