Helmut Josef Michael Kohl, a “true friend of freedom”, was born on 3 April 1930 into a conservative, Catholic environment.
Leading in Germany’s post-war reunification as the Cold War ended, Kohl was one of the leaders that played the framework for the European Union as we know it today was meant to be Germany’s reunification architect, the chancellor that reshaped modern Europe.
Germany’s former chancellor died at his house in Ludwigshafen, south of Frankfurt, aged 87. No other details were made immediately available.
The EU, the euro and Merkel
Kohl led the way to the drafting the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, through negotiations with former French President François Mitterrand, making possible the creation of the European Union, a process that eventually led to a single currency, the euro.
“Europe à la carte, in which each partner only chooses what he particularly likes about Europe, can be no more our goal that a Europe which has to move at the pace of the slowest ship in the convoy.” Helmut Kohl, Bundestag, 1992.
Current Chancellor Angela Merkel was Kohl’s protegee and made her debut in government under his rule in 1991. Merkel however publicly denounced Kohl and called for his resignation when it was revealed the party had received millions of dollars worth of illegal donations using secret bank accounts in 1998.
”The story of Helmut Kohl is the story of 20th-century Germany.”
“I’m in mourning over the death of Helmut Kohl, my close friend. He has led me on all European routes and accompanied,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, uploading a picture of him and Kohl at his Twitter account.
Ich bin in großer Trauer über den Tod von Helmut Kohl, meinem engen Freund. Er hat mich auf allen europäischen Wegen geleitet und begleitet. pic.twitter.com/0QdGsbZHlg
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) June 16, 2017
“He will be wanting us, because he was Europe and me personally a true confidant and ally. He personally guided me on all European routes,” added Juncker on Kohl, a politician that ” has built bridges to the west as well as to the east” and “has never ceased to design even better blueprints for the future of Europe. He has thus always seen the historical meaning – also in the perspective sense of the word.”
“Without Helmut Kohl, the euro would not exist,” added Juncker. “For him, as for his closest companion François Mitterrand, Europe was always a peace project. Regardless of the political issue of the former chancellor, he never forgot that the European project saved this continent after the world wars. For him, it was not just a question of prosperity, but also, and above all, a vocation to share responsibility for the future.”
“The German unity, which is due to him like no other, has always been understood as part of the European project,” added the Commission chief. “This also explains why, if he had the choice between national marching or European equality, he had always drawn the European map.”
“Only three people, Jean Monnet, Jacques Delors and Helmut Kohl, have earned their honorary citizenship for their services to European cooperation. I think that speaks for itself and makes our loss today all the greater – both politically and humanly. In commemoration of Helmut Kohl, I have therefore put the European flag on half-mast in front of the European institutions,” concludes Juncker’s statement.
Former U.S. presidents remember Helmut Kohl
“Future historians will say Europe’s 21st century began on his watch,” former US President Bill Clinton said in 1999 when awarding Kohl the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Former US President George HW Bush paid tribute to Kohl, as the man he knew while in office from 1989 to 1993 in a statement: “Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true friend of freedom, and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe Helmut Kohl came of are as an uncertain Germany rose from the ashes of war. Like so many who bore witness to the unspeakable depravity and hardships of that time, Helmut hated war – but he detested totalitarianism even more. And so he would devote his public life to strengthening the institutions of democracy in his homeland and beyond.” said George HW Bush.
“Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within NATO will remain one of the great joys of my life. Throughout our endeavors, Helmut was a rock – both steady and strong. We mourn his loss today, even as we know his remarkable life will inspire future generations f leaders to dare and achieve greatly. May Almighty God bless Helmut Kohl and the freedom he helped to secure,” concluded Bush’s statement.