Sun, Jun 18, 2017 - Page 5 News List

German reunification leader Kohl dies

EURO CHAMPION:Helmut Kohl was instrumental to the adoption of the euro, having convinced Germans to give up the mark, a symbol of the nation’s ‘economic miracle’

Reuters, BERLIN

German newspapers show former German chancellor Helmut Kohl on their front pages yesterday, the day after his death was announced.

Photo: EPA

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of Germany’s 1990 reunification and mentor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has died aged 87, his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party said on Friday.

The German newspaper Bild reported that Kohl died at 9:15am on Friday morning in bed at his home in Ludwigshafen, in western Germany, with his second wife, Maike Kohl-Richter, at his side.

Merkel, who grew up in the former East Germany before being appointed by Kohl to her first ministerial post, said that he “changed my own life path decisively” by reuniting Germany.

“When a new spirit began to stir in eastern Europe in the 1980s; when, starting in Poland, freedom was seized; when brave people in Leipzig, East Berlin and elsewhere in East Germany began a peaceful revolution; then Helmut Kohl was the right man at the right time,” said Merkel, who was wearing black.

“He stood fast to the dream and aim of a united Germany even as others hesitated,” she said in a televised statement from Rome.

Germany’s longest-serving post-war chancellor from 1982 to 1998, Kohl was a driving force behind the introduction of the euro, persuading sceptical Germans to give up the deutsche mark, a cherished symbol of the “economic miracle” of the 1950s and 1960s.

An imposing figure who formed an unlikely personal bond with former French president Francois Mitterrand in pushing for closer European integration, Kohl, a conservative, had been frail and used a wheelchair since suffering a bad fall in 2008.

By committing to anchor Germany within Europe under a common currency, he overcame resistance to reunification from Mitterrand, then-Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who feared the return of a powerful, united Germany.

“The maker of a united Germany and Franco-German friendship: with Helmut Kohl, we lose a great European,” tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron, with an iconic picture of Kohl and Mitterrand holding hands at a memorial to the World War I battle of Verdun.

British Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to “a giant of European history” and “the father of modern Germany,” while US President Donald Trump said Kohl was a friend and ally of the US.

“The world has benefited from his vision and efforts,” Trump said in a statement.

Shortly after leaving office, Kohl’s reputation was tarnished by a financing scandal in his center-right CDU, now led by Merkel.

Until his death, Kohl refused to identify the donors, saying he had given them his word.

Tributes poured in from around the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent condolences to Germany’s president and to Merkel and said Kohl “will be remembered in Russia as a resolute supporter of friendly relations between our countries.”

In Brussels, European flags were lowered to half-mast in tribute.

“Helmut’s death hurts me deeply. My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — who served as Luxembourg’s prime minister while Kohl was in office — said on Twitter.

At home, Kohl is celebrated above all as the father of German reunification, which he achieved after the November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

He won voters in bleak communist East Germany by promising them “flourishing landscapes.”

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