Merkel hails late leader Schmidt for anti-terror fight

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HAM­BURG: Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers bid farewell to for­mer West Ger­man chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Schmidt with a state fu­neral yes­ter­day, pay­ing trib­ute to his steady lead­er­ship in the face of terror at­tacks and eco­nomic cri­sis. Un­der tight se­cu­rity, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, much of her cab­i­net, for­mer US sec­re­tary of state Henry Kissinger and Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Jean-Claude Juncker gath­ered at the land­mark Saint Michael’s Church in his na­tive port city of Ham­burg with 1,800 mourn­ers.

Schmidt, who died on Novem­ber 10 aged 96, led then-West Ger­many from 1974 to 1982. Stand­ing by his cof­fin draped in the black, red and gold Ger­man flag and sur­rounded by bou­quets of sun­flow­ers and white lilies, Merkel hailed Schmidt for his un­wa­ver­ing stance dur­ing a bloody cam­paign by the far-left Red Army Fac­tion (RAF).

“We are again faced with hor­rific at­tacks,” she said. “Our thoughts con­stantly drift to Paris. The mo­tives to­day are dif­fer­ent and the cir­cum­stances are too. But terror re­mains terror.” Merkel, 61, said the an­swer, then as now af­ter this month’s deadly ji­hadist at­tacks in the French cap­i­tal, lay in a mus­cu­lar re­sponse with­out a sac­ri­fice of shared val­ues. “Free­dom is stronger than terror and ha­tred,” she said. “Hu­man­ity is stronger than bar­bar­ity.”

‘Vi­sion and courage’

Schmidt led his coun­try as it rose to be­come a global eco­nomic pow­er­house, and steered the post-war repub­lic through some of its dark­est hours. In 1977 when Pales­tinian mil­i­tants hi­jacked a Lufthansa plane and de­manded the release of jailed lead­ers of the ex­tremeleft RAF, Schmidt or­dered the air­craft be stormed. In the same year, three high­pro­file fig­ures in­clud­ing a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor were killed in a wave of RAF as­sas­si­na­tions, bomb­ings and kid­nap­pings that shook West Ger­many through­out the decade.

Merkel, a con­ser­va­tive, also pointed to the cen­trist So­cial Demo­crat Schmidt’s lead­er­ship in re­spond­ing to a global eco­nomic down­turn sparked by the oil cri­sis by es­tab­lish­ing the fore­run­ner to G7 sum­mits of in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions with the French pres­i­dent Valery Gis­card d’Es­taing, who also at­tended the fu­neral. Kissinger, 92, praised his friend and fel­low prac­ti­tioner of Re­alpoli­tik, the cool-headed prag­matic pol­i­tics in a Europe riven by the Iron Cur­tain, as a kind of “global con­science” with “vi­sion and courage”.

He quoted one of Schmidt’s fa­mous apho­risms: “Pol­i­tics with­out a con­science can lead to crim­i­nal acts.” Fol­low­ing an out­pour­ing of pub­lic af­fec­tion since his death, Merkel noted that Schmidt had re­mained a “sharp-wit­ted po­lit­i­cal ob­server and com­men­ta­tor” un­til his death. A chain smoker well into his 90s, Schmidt was the only Ger­man granted per­mis­sion to light up when­ever and wher­ever he chose, even dur­ing his fre­quent ap­pear­ances on tele­vi­sion chat shows. Ca­pa­ble of be­ing both amus­ing and brusque, Schmidt once fa­mously dis­missed an in­ter­viewer’s ques­tion, say­ing: “Any­one who has vi­sions should see a doc­tor.” — AFP

HAM­BURG: For­mer US Sec­re­tary of State Henry Kissinger, cen­ter talks to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel as they leave the church af­ter the of­fi­cial me­mo­rial ser­vice for for­mer Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Schmidt in Ham­burg, yes­ter­day. — AP

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