Europe pays trib­ute to Kohl, ‘a gi­ant’ of post-war his­tory

Hel­mut Kohl - an ar­chi­tect of Ger­many unity

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Euro­pean lead­ers joined with for­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton at an emo­tional trib­ute in Stras­bourg yes­ter­day for for­mer Ger­man chancellor Hel­mut Kohl, the father of Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion and a founder of mod­ern­day Europe. “A gi­ant of the post-war pe­riod has left us,” Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Jean-Claude Juncker said in an ora­tion in French and Ger­man. “Hel­mut Kohl was a Ger­man pa­triot, but he was also a Euro­pean pa­triot,” said Juncker, the only cur­rent leader in Europe to have worked along­side the iconic fig­ure. “Hel­mut Kohl was not just the ar­chi­tect of Ger­many unity. He con­trib­uted sub­stan­tially, more than oth­ers, to the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Euro­pean his­tory and Euro­pean ge­og­ra­phy.” Kohl, who served as chancellor from 1982 to 1998, died on June 16 at age 87. On his watch, the pro-West­ern and pro-Soviet states of West and East Ger­many re­uni­fied af­ter the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, becoming one of the sta­blest and most pros­per­ous democ­ra­cies in the world. With for­mer French pres­i­dent Fran­cois Mit­ter­rand, Kohl also drove the ex­pan­sion and in­te­gra­tion of the EU. To­gether, they helped to open up its membership to fledg­ling democ­ra­cies of the for­mer Soviet bloc, cre­ate the euro sin­gle cur­rency and ripped away in­ter­nal border con­trols. “Hel­mut Kohl was a priv­i­leged part­ner for France, an es­sen­tial ally, but he was also more than that, he was a friend,” French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said. “We are here to sa­lute his mark in his­tory.” The EU flag, of 12 gold stars on a blue back­ground, draped the cof­fin of the for­mer chancellor, which was placed in the cham­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment by a pha­lanx of eight Ger­man sol­diers. Three wreaths were placed in front of the cas­ket-one in the col­ors of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Ger­many, the other in the name of the EU, and the third in the name of Kohl’s wife Maike Kohl-Richter, bear­ing a sim­ple in­scrip­tion in Ger­man, “In Liebe, deine Meike” (With love, Maike). The choice of Stras­bourg for the cer­e­mony car­ried great sym­bolic weight. A French city on the Rhine border with Ger­many, Stras­bourg is lo­cated in a re­gion that once was blood­ily con­tested by France and Ger­many. Its lo­ca­tion, along with Brus­sels, as the seat of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment is an em­blem of the post­war rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween the two for­mer en­e­mies that was fos­tered by the EU. The par­lia­ment build­ing was ringed by steel for the cer­e­mony, with more than 2,000 po­lice on duty. Kohl’s cof­fin was to be taken by he­li­copter to the Ger­man city of Lud­wigshafen and then taken by boat down the Rhine to the south­west town of Speyer for his fu­neral ser­vice yes­ter­day.

Fam­ily row

Ar­range­ments to honor Kohl were clouded by crit­i­cism from Kohl’s elder son. In an interview with Die Zeit weekly he called the plans “un­wor­thy” of his father’s role in Ger­many’s his­tory. Wal­ter Kohl, whose mother was the late chancellor’s first wife Han­nelore Kohl, crit­i­cized the lack of a state fu­neral, which was re­fused by KohlRichter. Kohl mar­ried Kohl-Richter, 34 years her hus­band’s ju­nior, when he was 78. One of the rea­sons for her re­fusal was lin­ger­ing anger at the cur­rent chancellor, Angela Merkel, for treat­ment of her for­mer men­tor.

Merkel ousted Kohl from the lead­er­ship of the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) and urged the party to drop him when he be­came em­broiled in a party fund­ing scan­dal. Wal­ter Kohl wanted his father’s cof­fin to be taken to the Ger­man cap­i­tal for “a na­tional homage, an ec­u­meni­cal re­quiem and a mil­i­tary farewell cer­e­mony” near the Bran­den­burg Gate, where the Ger­man leader wit­nessed the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Be­cause of a long-run­ning feud with his step mother, who jeal­ously guards her hus­band’s po­lit­i­cal legacy, Wal­ter Kohl had not had con­tact with his father for many years and said he learned of his death from a ra­dio re­port. He said he would not take part in the burial in Speyer. Kohl’s death on June 16 was fol­lowed on Fri­day by that of Si­mone Veil, an­other colos­sus of Euro­pean his­tory. Veil, a Holo­caust sur­vivor and pi­o­neer of women’s rights in France, was the first pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

— AP

LUD­WIGSHAFEN: For­mer Ger­man chancellor Hel­mut Kohl’s cof­fin is driven through the city of Lud­wigshafen, Ger­many yes­ter­day. Kohl died June 16 at the age of 87.

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