Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who presided over both German reunification and the creation of the eurozone, has died aged 87. Kohl was a towering figure of European politics in the second half of the 20th century, serving as Germany’s chancellor for a record 16 years from from 1982 to 1998. Angela Merkel said her former mentor was “the right man at the right time”, who seized a “historic chance” to overcome the divide running through Europe.
The foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said he was grieving for a “great German and above all a great European”. Former US president George W Bush described the ex-chancellor as “a true friend of freedom and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe”. European Council president Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: “Helmut’s death hurts me deeply. My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed”
A photograph showing Kohl holding hands with French president François Mitterrand at the Douaumont cemetery in Verdun became the defining symbol of Franco-German conciliation after decades of bloody conflict between the two countries. The gesture was made even more poignant by the fact that Mitterrand himself had been injured at Verdun in the second world war while Kohl had lost a brother in the same conflict.