What message underlies the memorial for Kohl?
Politicians, friends and colleagues of Helmut Kohl have paid their last respects at two ceremonies in Strasbourg and Speyer. This was the first European act of state for a deceased politician. At the memorial ceremony in the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, Kohl's coffin was covered with a European flag. A look at Europe's press shows that while many were moved by the ceremony, it was also interpreted in many different ways.
More than just an echo of bygone times
The ceremony in Strasbourg should serve as a warning for Europe, De Volkskrant believes:
“Hopefully the European memorial ceremony for Kohl won't be seen as a relic from a bygone era. It should serve to remind us of the foundations of European cooperation. In the meantime we've come to understand the flip side of Kohl's big project. The euro, for example, suffers from problems that can't be solved with visionary speeches. And a European Union with 27 member states isn't as easy to steer as a much smaller club of like-minded countries. The success of Kohl's project saw Europe through into a new era, with new problems and challenges. Today as back then, we're in urgent need of statesmanlike leadership and European politicians who can think strategically.”
A high mass for German Europe?
In his blog Lost in Europe Eric Bonse doubts that the ceremony will give new impetus to European unity, suggesting that the opposite could be the case:
“The British or the Greeks could misunderstand the memorial as a high mass for German Europe, honouring 'Kaiser Kohl' and 'Queen Merkel'. Some might even wonder that there was no German act of state in honour of Kohl, but just a European one – as if Germany were the EU. … How much Germany can the EU take? Perhaps the question should really be: How much Merkel can Europe take?”
A show haunted by the angel of death
Birgün is also sceptical, and sees little good either in Kohl's legacy or in the commemorative ceremony:
“Chancellor Kohl really did establish a strong EU. However, it wasn't an EU of the people, but of the cartels, the big companies and the German mark. It was an ultra-liberal Europe whose foundations are increasingly shaky today. For that reason it was a little as if everyone was trying to cast off the angel of death that seemed to be hovering over the memorial ceremony in Strasbourg. It was insincere and vacuous. ... In a word, Saturday was a historic day in Strasbourg. Europe's leading figures put on a show in the EU's capital that will go down in history. Everyone was there. Everyone but the people's representatives, that is.”
Kohl freely interpreted
In the eulogies Kohl's legacy was repeatedly presented in the way today's politicians like to interpret it, Lidové noviny comments:
“Angela Merkel, for example, Kohl's successor as leader of the CDU, recalled his role in unifying Western and Eastern Europe and opening the borders. But what was Kohl's aim back then? He wanted the abolition of controls in the Schengen Area. As far as the external borders were concerned, however, he wanted to see them protected. ... That didn't stop Germany from opening the borders in 2015 without any regard for Schengen. Kohl warned a year ago that Europe couldn't take in millions of refugees or give a home to millions of needy people from around the world. Today everyone is twisting Kohl's words to suit their own interests.”