TWQ: Helmut Kohl’s Legacy for Germany - Autumn 2002
October 1, 2002
Now that the turbulence of the German Christian Democrats’ financial scandal, disclosed in 2000–2001, has passed and Kohl has not been found guilty of corruption, an undisturbed look at his achievements has become possible again. Many willremember Kohl’s greatest merit as his refusal to surrender to unfavorable opinion polls in his persistent conviction that the EMU project, stipulated by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1991–1992, was key to preventing a reunited Germany from upsetting the European balance. Kohl combined credible patriotic rhetoric with nonnationalistic action, thus preventing far-right populist parties and leaders from exploiting widespread anti-euro sentiments. “German unity and European unification are the two sides of the same coin,” he used to tell his reluctant compatriots. In fact, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Kohl was the first European leader to seriously consider expanding the European Community (as the European Union [EU] was then called) eastward—at a time when only Poland among the Warsaw Pact countries had a non-Communist head of government.
The EMU would undoubtedly not exist today—and the eastward enlargement of the EU would probably not have been forthcoming—without Kohl’s strong personal commitment. In tribute to his leadership, EU heads of state and government granted Kohl the title Honorary Citizen of Europe after he was voted out of office in 1998—a distinction conferred previously only on the legendary Jean Monnet (1888–1979).