Helmut Kohl lectures Merkel

Published on 26 August 2011 at 13:06

Unfaithful partner, faulty policies: in an interview with German bimonthly Internationale Politik, the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl expresses some regrets at the lack of predictability in the policies (internal and external) of Angela Merkel. The “clear road” to reunification and European integration followed by the former Chancellor is losing its signposts. Today we are “in danger of losing it all,” Kohl warns. We must regain the ‘predictability’ (“Berechenbarkeit”) of old – the very fundament of the German Federal Republic. Transatlantic relations, a unified Europe and Franco-German friendship are “the basic pillars. If we break loose from this anchor, the consequences would be catastrophic.”

The former head of government has been witness to a “frightening lack of courage...The great transformations in the world of today are no excuse for the lack of vision and ideas about the camp that one belongs to, and the direction we want to take,” he declares, in an oblique criticism of his successor and former protégé Angela Merkel. To fill a leadership role in Europe takes passion and toughness: “If you don’t have it, you’re in the wrong job.”

On the Greek crisis, Helmut Kohl believes that “there should be no question of having to ask ourselves whether we stand together with Greece.... Had I been chancellor at the time, I would never have given my consent to Greece’s entry into the euro area without fundamental reforms in the country,” the former leader says. “On my watch, Germany would not have violated the stability criteria of the euro. These mistakes have been made. But the good news is that they can be fixed. However, we must not act as if it were solely a matter of money. Europe in crisis needs a package of preventive measures, free of ideology, that will help get the euro back on the right path and ensure its future.”

For now, it is difficult to assess the impact of these criticisms on the debates within the CDU. For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, traditionally close to the Christian Democratic Party, Helmut Kohl has demanded clear “views and principles” to help clarify the party’s apparent confusion over “whether someone who refuses Eurobonds can still be a good European.” In response to criticisms of Kohl, the FAZ notes that “integration has reached a point where the fundamental differences in mentality and culture amongst the members of the Union cannot be covered over by evocative references to history (...) and plenty of German money.”

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