Merkel speaks at new, contentious Helmut Kohl Foundation – DW – 09/28/2022

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel and current Christian Democrat leader Friedrich Merz were among the high-profile guests on Tuesday as the new “Chancellor Helmut Kohl Foundation” held its opening event in Berlin, days before the 40th anniversary of Helmut Kohl becoming chancellor on October 1, 1982. 

However, the event took place amid a threat from Kohl’s second wife and widow, Maike Kohl-Richter, to launch legal action unless the new foundation was renamed. 

Merz said that the peaceful, free and democratic post-Cold War Europe, which he said Kohl played a key role in establishing, “is more seriously threatened than ever in its history” amid Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. 

Merz also praised Kohl for his role in German reunification and the collapse of the Soviet Union, saying the former chancellor “first recognized and then seized on the changes in global history of his era earlier than others.” 

The opposition leader said Russia’s invasion has shown the need for leadership in Europe: “Not leadership in the sense of dominance and dictating, but leadership in the sense of responsibility.” 

Angela Merkel and Friedrich Merz in the crowd during the opening of the Chancellor Helmut Kohl foundation in Berlin, with Merkel visibly applauding -- September 27, 2022.
Merz and Merkel both praised the man who led the CDU/CSU in Germany before them at Tuesday’s eventImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Merkel: Kohl would have kept one eye on future in Ukraine war

Angela Merkel, who rose in the CDU ranks under Kohl and later replaced his as the party’s leader, made a comparatively rare public appearance since stepping down as chancellor after last September’s elections. 

Merkel said that “three principles of statecraft” had defined Helmut Kohl: “The importance of the personal in politics, the unconditional will to shape [matters] and thinking in historical context.”

She said that these principles would have likely informed his handling of the current war in Ukraine. 

Merkel posited that if Kohl were chancellor in 2022, he would “make every effort to protect and restore the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine.” 

But she also said that he would never have lost sight of “the day after” when dealing with the current crisis. 

Kohl would, “in parallel, always keep in mind what at the moment is so unthinkable, so wholly unimaginable — namely how relations to and with Russia could one day be redeveloped,” Merkel said. “And, of course, he would never have tackled either solo as just Germany.” 

Kohl was a key player during the collapse of the Soviet Union, particularly when it came to what would become one of the first chapters of this process, the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification

He became chancellor on October 1, 1982, after the Free Democrats defected from a coalition with the Social Democrats to instead join forces with the CDU/CSU, bringing Kohl’s party to the head of a new government without an election. Kohl would then go on to win federal elections in 1983, 1987, 1990, and 1994. 

Widow Maike Kohl-Richter: Rename the foundation or face legal action

But as CDU politicians gathered to celebrate the late chancellor in Berlin, his widow Maike Kohl-Richter published a letter to the foundation’s chairman, Volker Kauder, demanding that it be renamed. She said the…

Read More: Merkel speaks at new, contentious Helmut Kohl Foundation – DW – 09/28/2022

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