World leaders bid farewell to 'patriot' Helmut Kohl

Posted July 02, 2017

Helmut Kohl was hailed as an "architect of the world as we know it" and a "giant of the postwar period" as world leaders gathered in Strasbourg to pay their last respects at the European Union's first ever state ceremony on Saturday.

The ceremony, starting at 11.00 CET (14:00 Yerevan Time) on Saturday, will be attended by the presidents of European Union institutions, former and current heads of state and government and other dignitaries.

He added: "Helmut Kohl was a German patriot, but he was also a European patriot".

The former chancellor's coffin was brought to the parliament chamber in the French city of Strasbourg where Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and former U.S. president Bill Clinton were in attendance.

Mr Kohl, who served as Chancellor from 1982 to 1998, oversaw the end of the Cold War and is widely regarded as the mastermind of German reunification.

French President Emmanuel Macron, a 4-year-old when Kohl took office and who won the presidency on a unabashedly pro-European platform, said he'd work with Merkel to pursue Kohl's construction of a "kindhearted" Europe and that "history will judge us".

Following the ceremony in Strasbourg, which was attended by over 800 guests, Kohl's coffin was to be taken to the German city of Speyer for a requiem Mass and military honors.

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Other speakers included French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and former Spanish prime minister Felipe González.

Speaking next to his coffin, which was draped in the European Union flag, Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was up to this generation to preserve his legacy.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the ceremony in Strasbourg, close to the border with Germany, was Kohl's own choice. "I bow before you and your memory in gratitude and humility", she said.

Ms Merkel, who served as a minister under Mr Kohl in the 1990s but later had a falling out over his role in receiving $1 million in illegal campaign cash donations, remembered her predecessor as a sometimes controversial figure with numerous enemies.

Following Saturday's ceremony in Strasbourg, Kohl's coffin was transported by helicopter to Germany and then taken down the Rhine river to Speyer, with thousands of people lining the roads and riverbanks to bid their farewell.

However Germany will not hold a state funeral for Mr Kohl in Germany at the request of his widow Maike Kohl-Richter, his second wife.

On Friday, Kohl's son Walter called the plans for his father's funeral "unworthy" of a man considered the father of German reunification, further inflaming a family feud with his stepmother.