World leaders, ordinary Germans bid farewell to Helmut Kohl

European ceremony honours German titan Kohl

World leaders have paid tribute to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, the father of German reunification and a founder of modern-day Europe.

The ceremony, starting at 11.00 CET (14:00 Yerevan Time) on Saturday, will be attended by the presidents of European Union institutions, former and current heads of state and government and other dignitaries.

"Helmut Kohl was a German patriot and a European patriot", said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a close friend.

The former chancellor's coffin was brought to the parliament chamber in the French city of Strasbourg where Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and former USA president Bill Clinton were in attendance.

The former chancellor lead Germany from 1982 to 1998, and was widely seen as having overcome the fears of the country's neighbours, putting an end to the division between East and West and allowing Germany to be rebuilt as a nation by assuring Europe his country would no longer aspire to dominate others.

"Much of what we take for granted today we can thank him for: that Eastern and Western Europe are united, that we have a common market, that there are no border controls between European Union states and that a lot of them share a common currency", said Angela Merkel, the current chancellor whom Kohl gave her first cabinet post.

"Helmut Kohl gave us the chance to be involved in something bigger than ourselves", said former U.S. President Bill Clinton, citing Kohl's willingness to put worldwide cooperation before national interests at key moments in history.


The requiem Mass in Speyer ended with a rare funeral toll from the Cathedral's Emperor Bell - named after the eight Holy Roman Emperors buried in the city - after which his flag-draped coffin was carried out into the open for military honours.

Speeches by French President Emmanuel Macron and former US president Bill Clinton were also planned.

She also offered personal thanks for the opportunities that Mr Kohl - her political mentor whom she later denounced over a funding scandal - had given her in her career.

Mr Kohl's body is being transported to his hometown of Ludwigshafen and from there by river boat to the cathedral in the medieval town of Speyer - a 1,000-year-old building that he loved and said symbolised the essence of European union.

Walter Kohl, whose mother was the late chancellor's first wife Hannelore Kohl, criticised the lack of a state funeral, which was refused by Kohl's second wife Maike Kohl-Richter. "I bow before you and your memory in gratitude and humility", she said.

The arrangements have been clouded by criticism from Kohl's elder son.

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