October 1 marks the 30th anniversary of Helmut Kohl’s 16 year tenure as Chancellor of Germany. The first half of that tenure saw Kohl as Chancellor of a divided Germany. The second half forever connected Kohl to German unification
In more ways than one, Helmut Kohl left behind a large legacy when he departed office in 1998. His commitment to German unity was rewarded on Oct 3 1990 amidst the celebration of a reunited Germany. He was instrumental in crafting the basis of what would eventually become the euro. He was and is − at 82 − a tireless proponent of the European Union (together with his predecessor Helmut Schmidt), and he worries greatly about German doubts surrounding it. Kohl always argued that that goal of a united Europe is a matter of peace − or war if it was to fail.
The beginning of the Kohl era is history for the majority of the members of the Bundestag now. In 1982 he assumed office in a Germany with different challenges than those Chancellor Merkel faces today. His time and his decisions were forged in a framework that he saw in stark and contrasting terms. That explained his rush to secure German unification, and then almost immediately after securing that goal, he pushed Germany into a stronger embrace of Europe − in part to head off concerns among other Europeans about a united Germany.
Helmut Kohl’s sixteen years in office − bested only by Bismarck − might be matched someday by another Chancellor. But the path he took shaped Germany’s decisions then and help forge the platform on which it stands today with another set of choices and decisions. Future leaders will always stand on his shoulders.
More on the 30th anniversary of Helmut Kohl’s 16 year Chancellery: