Europe pays tribute to Kohl, ‘a giant’ of postwar history
SPEYER, Germany — European leaders joined former US president Bill Clinton on Saturday to pay tribute to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who oversaw the German reunification and the end of the Cold War.
Kohl served as chancellor from 1982 to 1998. He died on June 16 aged 87.
“A giant of the postwar period has left us,” European Commission chief JeanClaude Juncker said in an oration in the French city of Strasbourg, where the European Parliament is located.
It was the first time that the Parliament has paid tribute to a leader in such a manner.
“Helmut Kohl was not just the architect of German unity. He contributed substantially, more than others, to the reconciliation between European history and European geography,” Juncker said, adding that without Kohl “Europe would not have the euro”.
On Kohl’s watch, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic were reunified in 1990, becoming one of the stablest and most prosperous nations in the world.
“Helmut Kohl gave us the chance to be involved in something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our terms in office and bigger than our fleeting careers,” Clinton said.
Kohl’s successor and onetime protege, Angela Merkel, struggled to rein in her emotions as she hailed “the chancellor of unification”.
“Without Helmut Kohl, the life of millions of people, mine included, who lived on the other side of the wall, would not be what it is today,” she said.
The ceremony was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Special Envoy Wan Gang, who paid tribute to Kohl on behalf of the Chinese government and people.
He also conveyed his condolences to European Council President Donald Tusk, German President FrankWalter Steinmeier and to the family of Kohl.
Wan, who is also ViceChairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Minister of Science and Technology, said Kohl had made a significant contribution to development of the Sino-European and Sino-German relations.
China would always remember him as a friend, Wan added.
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