Europe bids farewell to late German Chancellor Kohl

World leaders on Saturday (1 July) paid final tributes to Helmut Kohl, the former Chancellor who reunited Germany and helped shape Europe as we know it.

Kohl, who died on 16 June at 87, was lauded at a ceremony at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg as a dedicated European pacifist by former US President Bill Clinton, Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other international figures.

One of the most moving eulogies was given by Clinton who said Kohl was dedicated to creating a world in which no one dominated. “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.

Helmut Kohl, who was Germany’s chancellor for 16 years, played a key role in the peaceful reunification of Eastern and Western Europe / Photo: Daniel Biskup/CDU

He added, „Sleep well my friend, the greatest gift you left us is the lessons, the things that matter most in life, is what we leave our children, the freedom, the peace, the security, to build our own prosperity, to chase our own dreams and to believe they can be very big, while lifting up not tearing down. You did a good job with your life. And those of us, who shared it, loved you for it. Thank you!”

“Helmut Kohl was a German patriot and a European patriot,” said Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister and close friend of Kohl, said in his tribute. “We’ve lost a giant of the post-war era.”

“He was the architect of the world order,” said Medvedev of Kohl, who skilfully negotiated reunification with communist East Germany with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. “In Russia, we’ll remember him as our friend — a wise and sincere person.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a former minister in Kohl’s government, also paid tribute to her mentor, insisting that it was up to today’s generation to guard his legacy.

Some of the dignitaries at the memorial service for Helmut Kohl at European Parliament in Strasbourg. Back row: King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain attend. Front row from left: Bill Clinton, Chancellor Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron of France / Photo: El Imparcial

“Many of the things, that we take for granted, can be traced back to him: the unification of Eastern and Western Europe, the single market, the removal of border controls between the member-countries of the EU, and that most of these countries have a single currency, the fact that the European Union in her present form exists at all, all these things are and will continue to be linked with his name materially,” she said.

The tribute in the European Parliament was the first of its kind to a political leader. Kohl’s casket was then flown by helicopter across the Rhine from Strasbourg to his hometown of Ludwigshafen, where his body was later carried in procession before being transported by riverboat to nearby Speyer – one of Germany’s oldest towns.

Hundreds of dignitaries attended his funeral in the Speyer Cathedral, where as a teenager Kohl found shelter from bombings during World War II. The resting place of many rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, it was seen by Kohl as a symbol of European unity.

Kwame Appiah with agency reports

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