The death of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl on Saturday is a reason to look at the life’s work of the longest-serving German head of government since Bismarck, writes Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam.
This is the time to look at the big picture, and not smaller and bigger personal shortcomings. Kohl’s historic effort to reunite Germany is timeless. The important thing is that he had the courage and the skill to look beyond the reality of the year 1989, and to use the collapse of communist East Germany to immediately push for reunification.
For this Kohl came under fire, as the Western allies’ reaction to his idea was reserved to say the least, with Margaret Thatcher opposing it more rigidly than Gorbachev.
The Baltic peoples first remained outside the focus of Kohl’s politics, but it can certainly be said that without the reunification of Germany neither the continued integration of Europe nor the extension of the European Union would have been possible. German unity and European integration and the integration of national and European interests in Kohl’s words are two sides of the same coin.
However, there is a great gap in the current comments. While Kohl’s relationship with the older President Bush as well as Gorbachev is discussed a lot, astonishingly Ronald Reagan is missing entirely, whose time in office essentially coincided with Kohl’s.
It was Reagan who, between 1982 and 1987, repeatedly demanded of Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall. Without the help of these demands, without Reagan’s purposeful strategy that pushed the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union to the brink of economic disaster and forced the Kremlin leaders to be flexible, Kohl couldn’t have run his diplomacy with Gorbachev.
Tunne Kelam is a member of the European Parliament from Estonia for the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) and the European People's Party (EPP). Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kelam was a dissident and eventually one of the leading figures in the events leading up to Estonia's regaining independence.
Editor: Dario Cavegn