Helmut Kohl

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Birth Date:
03.04.1930
Death date:
16.06.2017
Person's maiden name:
Helmut Josef Michael Kohl
Extra names:
Helmut Kohl, Helmut Josef Michael Kohl, Helmūts Kols, Helmūts Jozefs Mihaels Kols, Гельмут Коль, Гельмут Йозеф Михаэль Коль
Categories:
Chancellor, Member of the Government, Politician, Prime minister
Nationality:
 german
Cemetery:
Wilhelmshaven, Ehrenfriedhof (de)

Helmut Josef Michael Kohl (German:; 3 April 1930 – 16 June 2017) was a German statesman who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 (of West Germany 1982–90 and of the reunited Germany 1990–98) and as the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 1973 to 1998. From 1969 to 1976, Kohl was Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Kohl's 16-year tenure was the longest of any German Chancellor since Otto von Bismarck, and by far the longest of any democratically elected Chancellor. Kohl oversaw the end of the Cold War and is widely regarded as the mastermind of German reunification. Together with French President François Mitterrand, Kohl is also considered to be the architect of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union (EU) and the euro currency.

Kohl was described as "the greatest European leader of the second half of the 20th century" by U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Kohl received the Charlemagne Prize in 1988 with François Mitterrand; in 1998 Kohl became the second person to be named Honorary Citizen of Europe by the European heads of state or government.

Life

Youth and education

Helmut Kohl was born on 3 April 1930 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein (at the time part of Bavaria, now in Rhineland-Palatinate), Germany, the third child of Hans Kohl (1887–1975), a imperial army veteran, civil servant, and his wife, Cäcilie (née Schnur; 1891–1979).

Kohl's family was conservative and Roman Catholic, and remained loyal to the Catholic Centre Party before and after 1933. His older brother died in the Second World War as a teenage soldier. At the age of ten, Kohl was obliged, like any child in Germany at the time, to join the Deutsches Jungvolk, a section of the Hitler Youth. Aged 15, on 20 April 1945, Kohl was sworn into the Hitler Youth by leader Artur Axmann at Berchtesgaden, just days before the end of the war, as membership was mandatory for all boys of his age. Kohl was also drafted for military service in 1945; he was not involved in any combat, a fact he later referred to as the "mercy of late birth" (German: Gnade der späten Geburt).

Kohl attended the Ruprecht Elementary School, and continued at the Max-Planck-Gymnasium. After graduating in 1950, Kohl began to study law in Frankfurt am Main, spending two semesters commuting between Ludwigshafen and Frankfurt. Here, Kohl heard lectures from Carlo Schmid and Walter Hallstein among others. In 1951, Kohl switched to the University of Heidelberg, where he studied history and political science. Kohl was the first in his family to attend university.

Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate

On 19 May 1969, Kohl was elected minister-president of Rhineland-Palatinate, as the successor to Peter Altmeier. As of 2017, he is the youngest person ever to be elected as head of government in a German Bundesland. Just a few days after his election as minister-president, Kohl also became vice-chair of the federal CDU party. While in office, Kohl acted as a reformer, focusing on school and education. His government abolished school corporal punishment and the parochial school, topics that had been controversial with the conservative wing of his party. During his term, Kohl founded the University of Trier-Kaiserslautern. He also finalised a territorial reform of the state, standardising codes of law and re-aligning districts, an act that he had already pursued under Altmeier's tenure, taking the chairmanship of the Landtag's committee on the reform. After taking office, Kohl established two new ministries, one for economy and transportation and one for social matters, with the latter going to Heiner Geißler, who would work closely with Kohl for the next twenty year

Chancellor of West Germany

Rise to power

On 1 October 1982, the CDU proposed a constructive vote of no confidence which was supported by the FDP. The motion carried. Three days later, the Bundestag voted in a new CDU/CSU-FDP coalition cabinet, with Kohl as chancellor. Many of the important details of the new coalition had been hammered out on 20 September, though minor details were reportedly still being hammered out as the vote took place. Though Kohl's election was done according to the Basic Law, it came amid some controversy. The FDP had fought its 1980 campaign on the side of the SPD and even placed Chancellor Schmidt on some of their campaign posters. There were also doubts that the new government had the support of a majority of the people. In answer, the new government aimed at new elections at the earliest possible date. Polls suggested that a clear majority was indeed in reach. As the Basic Law only allows the dissolution of parliament after an unsuccessful confidence motion, Kohl had to take another controversial move: he called for a confidence vote only a month after being sworn in, in which members of his coalition abstained. President Karl Carstens then dissolved the Bundestag and called new elections.

The move was controversial, as the coalition parties denied their votes to the same man they had elected Chancellor a month before and whom they wanted to re-elect after the parliamentary election. This step was condoned by the German Federal Constitutional Court as a legal instrument and was again applied (by SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his Green allies) in 2005.

Second cabinet

In the federal elections of March 1983, Kohl won a resounding victory. The CDU/CSU won 48.8%, while the FDP won 7.0%. Some opposition members of the Bundestag asked the Federal Constitutional Court to declare the whole proceeding unconstitutional. It denied their claim, but did set restrictions on a similar move in the future. The second Kohl cabinet pushed through several controversial plans, including the stationing of NATO midrange missiles, against major opposition from the peace movement.

On 22 September 1984 Kohl met the French president François Mitterrand at Verdun, where the Battle of Verdun between France and Germany had taken place during World War I. Together, they commemorated the deaths of both World Wars. The photograph, which depicted their minutes long handshake became an important symbol of French-German reconciliation. Kohl and Mitterrand developed a close political relationship, forming an important motor for European integration. Together, they laid the foundations for European projects, like Eurocorps and Arte. This French-German cooperation also was vital for important European projects, like the Treaty of Maastricht and the Euro.

In 1985, Kohl and US President Ronald Reagan, as part of a plan to observe the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, saw an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the friendship that existed between Germany and its former foe. During a November 1984 visit to the White House, Kohl appealed to Reagan to join him in symbolizing the reconciliation of their two countries at a German military cemetery. As Reagan visited Germany as part of the G6 conference in Bonn, the pair visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 5 May and the German military cemetery at Bitburg.

Third cabinet

After the federal elections of 1987 Kohl won a slightly reduced majority and formed his third cabinet. The SPD's candidate for chancellor was the Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, Johannes Rau.

In 1987, Kohl received East German leader Erich Honecker – the first ever visit by an East German head of state to West Germany. This is generally seen as a sign that Kohl pursued Ostpolitik, a policy of détente between East and West that had been begun by the SPD-led governments (and strongly opposed by Kohl's own CDU) during the 1970s.

Domestic policy

Kohl's chancellorship presided over a number of innovative policy measures. Extensions in unemployment benefit for older claimants were introduced, while the benefit for the young unemployed was extended to age 21. In 1986, a child-rearing allowance was introduced to benefit parents when at least one was employed. Informal carers were offered an attendance allowance together with tax incentives, both of which were established with the tax reforms of 1990, and were also guaranteed up to 25 hours a month of professional support, which was supplemented by four weeks of annual holiday relief. In 1984, an early retirement scheme was introduced that offered incentives to employers to replace elderly workers with applicants off the unemployment register. In 1989 a partial retirement plan was introduced under which elderly employees could work half-time and receive 70% of their former salary “and be credited with 90 per cent of the full social insurance entitlement.” In 1984, a Mother and Child Fund was established, providing discretionary grants “to forestall abortions on grounds of material hardship,” and in 1986 a 10 Mrd DM package of Erziehungsgeld (childcare allowance) was introduced, although according to various studies, this latter initiative was heavily counterbalanced by cuts. In 1989, special provisions were introduced for the older unemployed.

Kohl's time as Chancellor also saw some controversial decisions in the field of social policy. Student aid was made reimbursable to the state while the Health Care Reform Act of 1989 introduced the concept by which patients pay up front and are reimbursed, while increasing patient co-payments for hospitalisation, spa visits, dental prostheses, and prescription drugs. In addition, while a 1986 Baby-Year Pensions reform granted women born after 1921 one year of work-credit per child, lawmakers were forced by public protest to phase in supplementary pension benefits for mothers who were born before the cut-off year.

Chancellor of reunified Germany

Reunification placed Kohl in a momentarily unassailable position. In the 1990 elections – the first free, fair and democratic all-German elections since the Weimar Republic era – Kohl won by a landslide over opposition candidate and Minister-President of Saarland, Oskar Lafontaine. He then formed his fourth cabinet.

After the federal elections of 1994 Kohl was reelected with a somewhat reduced majority, defeating Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate Rudolf Scharping. The SPD was able to win a majority in the Bundesrat, which significantly limited Kohl's power. In foreign politics, Kohl was more successful, for instance getting Frankfurt am Main as the seat for the European Central Bank. In 1997, Kohl received the Vision for Europe Award for his efforts in the unification of Europe.

By the late 1990s, the aura surrounding Kohl had largely worn off amid rising unemployment. He was heavily defeated in the 1998 federal elections by the Minister-President of Lower Saxony, Gerhard Schröder.

Retirement and legal troubles

A red-green coalition government led by Schröder replaced Kohl's government on 27 October 1998. He immediately resigned as CDU leader and largely retired from politics. He remained a member of the Bundestag until he decided not to run for reelection in the 2002 election.

Death

Kohl died on the morning of Friday 16 June 2017 in his hometown of Ludwigshafen, aged 87

***

Source: wikipedia.org, news.lv

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