Farewell to honorary European citizen Helmut Kohl
The three presidents of the EU institutions and world leaders past and present paid their respects to former Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Saturday during a ceremony in the EP in Strasbourg
In the first farewell speech, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani called former Chancellor Kohl "a European giant, a courageous man, a protagonist for the reunification of our continent." President Tajani praised Dr. Kohl for having been the champion of a generation which dedicated its life to European unity, thereby bringing peace. “There is not a page in the history of modern European unification which does not have Helmut Kohl’s mark on it. He has left us a formidable legacy and many responsibilities as well”.
“Helmut Kohl was a German and a European patriot, because for him there was no contradiction between the two. For him, German and European unity went together”, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, adding that the then German Chancellor shaped his era when many others would have failed.
European Council President Donald Tusk praised Helmut Kohl for “laying the cornerstone of modern Europe” and warned that “today, the successors to this great hero of positive European history must, gathering around his coffin, examine their conscience”.
Former Prime Minister of Spain Felipe González said that he was honoured to have counted Helmut Kohl as a true friend; a friend with whom he shared decisive moments in the history of Germany, Europe and the world. “What defined Helmut Kohl was his will - not for a German Europe, but for a European Germany”.
Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, thanked Helmut Kohl “for giving us the chance to be involved in something bigger than ourselves.” Mr Clinton also praised Dr. Kohl “for teaching us that the greatest thing in life is what we leave our children: the freedom, the peace, the security with which to chase their own dreams.”
“They used to say Helmut Kohl’s ideas could not be achieved. Today we say that things could not have been done otherwise”, Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev said, calling Dr Kohl “a person of the future”.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron asked those present at the ceremony to remember the friendship and passion for ideals that Helmut Kohl had brought to politics. “For those who say the EU construct is technocratic, that is because they have removed the dimensions of friendship and passion that so characterised Helmut Kohl”.
As the final speaker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Helmut Kohl embodied an era. She praised his “fine feeling for what was politically achievable, while never abandoning his unshakeable political convictions”.
Each eulogy can be watched again here:
Videos and photos from the ceremony - http://audiovisual.europarl.europa.eu/european-ceremony-of-honour-for-helmut-kohl-ceremony
Marjory VAN DEN BROEKEHead of the Press Unit