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Konrad Werner: Helmut Kohl, at least he believed in something

Here's something nice about Helmut Kohl.

Image for Konrad Werner: Helmut Kohl, at least he believed in something
Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F054631-0013 / Engelbert Reineke / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Sadly, we won’t ever know what Helmut Kohl meant exactly in July 2011 when he said – or when Spiegel said he said – that Angela Merkel was “ruining my Europe” (“die macht mir mein Europa kaputt“) with her handling of the Greek debt thing. It was a comment the Spiegel got at the time from an unnamed “companion who had visited the former chancellor recently,” but spurious or not it filled many a headline that day.

It also surfaced in a couple of Kohl obituaries last week and then re-emerged as the background to the slightly awkward bollocks row over Kohl’s funeral. This week, according to another unconfirmed bit of Spiegel gossip, Kohl’s widow Maike Kohl-Richter supposedly wanted Viktor Orbán to speak instead of Merkel at Kohl’s European Union state funeral in Strasbourg.

This too sounds like bollocks. It’s not even clear in the Spiegel story why they bring up Orbán in the first place, he’s just sort of mentioned as another leader, but that makes it sound suitably ridiculous, seeing as Orbán is currently baiting the European Union with a populist hate campaign and presiding over a mini gangster state.

But the point is that Kohl was basically right about Merkel in 2011. At least he was if he actually said it and if he meant what I’m going to say he meant, which is that Merkel did start ruining Europe in 2011 by turning the EU into a system for shoring up the German banking system, rather than a union of political values. Even if it saved Germany from economic damage, that move also made things a lot easier for Orbán and Farage and the rest of that mafia.  At least Kohl, unlike Merkel, actually believed in the European Union as a political union – even if the way he allowed the euro to be set up might have led to the crisis that Merkel had to deal with.

So, for that, apart from being a man who was caught in all kinds of lies in the CDU’s illegal party donation scheme, Kohl was basically okay by me. Also he pissed off Margaret Thatcher a lot.

There’s more of this sort of talk on Konrad’s podcast, News des Nachrichtens, with Drew Portnoy.