Angela Merkel honors Helmut Kohl, calls him a 'great German'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has honored her former mentor, the late Helmut Kohl, in the official book of condolences for the former chancellor. The European Union is also planning a special commemoration.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday honored the late Helmut Kohl, describing him as a "great German and a great European."
In the book, Merkel wrote that Kohl "made an almost unparalleled contribution" to German reunification as well as understanding across Europe.
"In Helmut Kohl, we have lost a great German and a great European," Merkel wrote on Sunday. "He made an almost unparallel contribution to the restoration of our country's unity and to European harmony."
The German government has put the book on display in the Chancellery in Berlin, while the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, which Kohl led from 1973 to 1998, has placed one at its headquarters in Berlin. The party also launched a website for visitors to write their farewell messages.
Kohl died on Friday, aged 87. He led Germany for 16 years as chancellor, from 1982 to 1998, a crucial era in contemporary German and European history in which he oversaw German reunification and pushed for the creation of the common European currency, the euro.
Kohl acted as a mentor for Merkel, handing her her first ministerial post in 1991. But relations between the two were strained when Merkel turned against him after a party funding scandal in 1999. However, as uproar around the scandal faded, Kohl again received recognition from the CDU and his former protege.
Kohl to receive special European commemoration
Kohl's role in the shaping the European Union will also be honored with a special commemoration that is expected to include a memorial service and a tribute from all EU member state leaders
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, told the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday that Kohl deserved the unprecedented honor because he was one of only three European honorary citizens, alongside the bloc's founding father, Jean Monnet and former Commission President Jacques Delors, Juncker said.
"Even before his passing, Helmut Kohl had been awarded an honorary citizenship for his extraordinary services," the Commission president said told the German newspaper. "That is why we owe Kohl a European state ceremony, and I will personally see to it that it happens."
Such a commemoration would be the first of its kind.
German commissioner Günther Oettinger backed the proposal, as did Martin Schulz, former President of the European Parliament and Merkel's Social Democratic challenger in September's federal election.
Should the ceremony go ahead as planned, it would be scheduled to take place within two weeks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
While German authorities are yet to give details of the funeral arrangements, reports suggest that following the ceremony in Strasbourg, Kohl's body will be transported along the Rhine to the town of Speyer where a funeral in the local cathedral is planned. The funeral will be open to the public. Family and close friends will then say their farewells in a private ceremony.
dm/jlw (dpa, KNA, AP)