Poul Schluter, the Danish prime minister who ended an era of currency devaluations by introducing a krone peg, has died. He was 92.
Schluter died early on Thursday, the Conservative Party he once led said in a statement. A lawyer by education, he oversaw several governments between 1982 and 1993, making him Denmark’s longest-serving prime minister since World War II.
Schluter’s “family has lost a dear member and our country has lost one of the most important people of our time,” Soren Pape, the current head of the Conservative Party, said in a statement.
Supporters have credited Schluter for championing fiscal discipline in Denmark, now a AAA-rated economy. Critics say his strict policies suffocated consumption and constrained economic growth.
His style was pragmatic and he often used humor to defuse political deadlock. His optimism -- one of his catchphrases was that the economy “is doing incredibly well” -- made him a catalyst, but it was also used to ridicule him when things went badly.
“Schluter’s undisputed strength as prime minister was his relaxed leadership style,” political commentator Kaare R. Skou said in a 2005 anthology. “He sparked an optimism in society that had been lacking for a long time.”
Poul Holmskov Schluter was born April 3, 1929 in Tonder, southern Denmark, as the son of a chocolate manufacturer. He received a master’s degree in law from the University of Copenhagen in 1957 and in 1964 became a member of parliament for the Conservative People’s Party, becoming its chairman 10 years later.
Schluter took over as prime minister in 1982, when Social Democrat Anker Jorgensen stepped down amid rising foreign debt and deteriorating public finances. The new premier tightened spending and his economic policy was to some extend inspired by contemporary conservative leaders like U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
Schluter pegged the krone to the Deutschmark in a bid to restore faith among international investors after Jorgensen had overseen a number of devaluations to help exports. Subsequent governments have maintained the policy of the peg, which is now tied to the euro.
Poul Schlüter er gået bort.— Det Konservative Folkeparti (@KonservativeDK) May 28, 2021
Æret være Poul Schlüters minde. pic.twitter.com/G24R1EwZFG
“Ideology is trash,” was one of the quotes Schluter often used to describe the pragmatic approach needed to juggle four different coalition governments spanning parties from the political center to the right.
In 1993 he was forced to step down after a scandal involving his justice minister, who had tightened immigration practices without the backing of parliament. Schluter left domestic politics and in 1994 became a member of the European Union parliament, where he served until 1999.
He once said he would like to be remembered as “a political gentleman,” highlighting his foreign policy achievements as his biggest. These include forging closer ties with the EU and NATO.
“As a politician, you have to commit to optimism,” Schluter said in a March 2019 interview with Altinget. “It has to be one of your tools. You have to believe in your goals and then it will hopefully rub off on voters.”
He is survived by his wife Anne Marie Vessel Schluter and son Peter Schluter.
— With assistance by Morten Buttler