|A big man has left this world. He always made his counterparts look small, and that quite literally.|
Helmut Kohl, Ex-Chancellor of Germany was a tall figure in life and tall in politics.
Helmut Kohl died June 16 2017
Kohl's 16-year tenure was the longest of any German Chancellor since Otto von Bismarck. He oversaw the end of the Cold War and is widely regarded as the mastermind of German reunification, leading to the fall of the wall. Together with French President François Mitterrand, Kohl is considered to be the architect of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union (EU) and the euro currency.
Following the breach of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the East German Communist regime in 1989, Kohl's handling of the East German issue would become the turning point of his chancellorship. Kohl, like most West Germans, was initially caught unaware when the East-German Socialist Unity Party (SED) was toppled in late 1989. Well aware of his constitutional mandate to seek German unity, he immediately moved to make it a reality. Taking advantage of the historic political changes occurring in East Germany, Kohl presented a ten-point plan for "Overcoming of the division of Germany and Europe" without consulting his coalition partner, the FDP, or the Western Allies. In February 1990, he visited the Soviet Union seeking a guarantee from Mikhail Gorbachev that the USSR would allow German reunification to proceed. One month later, the Party of Democratic Socialism – the renamed SED – was roundly defeated by a grand coalition headed by the East German counterpart of Kohl's CDU, which ran on a platform of speedy reunification.
On 18 May 1990, Kohl signed an economic and social union treaty with East Germany. By then East Germany was in a state of utter collapse.
Helmut Kohl was a politician who favored an open Europe, a Europe with no borders where people could move freely and seek work where ever they liked. Today we know that his idea has met a few difficulties, mostly rooted in huge economic differences between the countries of the European Union. Recent developments in the Middle East and ongoing unrest and starvation in Africa have caused that millions of people are migrating to the most economically favorable areas of Europe. Europe will still have to face the challenge of an unprecedented pressure on immigration and It will finally lead to a change in European culture. But walls and fences are not the answer. The answer is peace and prosperity in the countries of origin, a goal which will be very hard to reach and may take many future generations. It will also teach us patience and will require leaders with the vision to aim for a peaceful co-existence in a multi-cultural society.