(b. Rotterdam, 7 May 1939)
Netherlandish; Prime Minister 1982–94 After studying economics in Rotterdam Lubbers became secretary of the board of Hollandia Machine factory, a family firm of which he became co-director with his brother after the death of their father. He was active as a young Catholic entrepreneur in several associations of Christian employers.
A member of the Catholic party (KVP) since 1964, his political career began in 1970, when he was elected to the Rijnmond Council, a new representative body for Rotterdam, its docklands and surrounding areas. In 1973 at the age of 34 Lubbers became Minister of Economic Affairs in the Den Uyl government, the first Cabinet in which ministers of left parties had a clear majority over ministers drawn from the Catholic KVP and the Calvinist Anti-revolutionary Party. He became a member of the Lower House in 1977. One year later he was elected leader of the newly formed Christian Democratic parliamentary group which issued into the CDA, the merger of the former three denominational parties KVP, ARP, and CHU in 1980.
Between 1982 and 1994 Lubbers led three cabinets in succession, the first two composed of Christian Democrats and Liberals, the last one a coalition between the former and the Social Democrats. During his first governmental period (1982–6) his government decided on severe economic measures (Time spoke of a ‘Ruud-shock’), which contributed to a consolidation of the Dutch economic position internationally. He became known as a troubleshooter par excellence, often thinking of several solutions at once for any given problem. One important example was the manner in which he solved the political crisis on the stationing of cruise missiles on Dutch soil, which had been the focus of unparalleled mass demonstrations. He became increasingly a senior presence in the international arena. On what is normally called in Dutch diplomatic circles Black Monday (30 September 1991) Dutch proposals for a more federal Europe badly backfired. Only Lubbers's considerable diplomatic skills secured the adoption of a heavily revised Treaty of Maastricht during the Dutch EC presidency in December 1991.
At the end of his long ministerial career—no Dutch Prime Minister remained in office as long as he did—his name figured unsuccessfully for high international posts as chairman of the European Commission and Secretary-General of NATO respectively. After his resignation in 1994 he returned to the family enterprise; he became professor of ‘global international economic relations’ in Tilburg and director of the Research Bureau of the Christian Democratic Party. In 2001 he was appointed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He was active in assisting refugees from many trouble spots, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Afghanistan, and criticized developed countries for not providing as much as they could to help refugees and asylum seekers. His period at the UN ended in controversy in 2005 when he resigned following the leaking of an internal UN report investigating unsubstantiated claims of sexual harassment, which he strongly denied.