European Union planning grand ceremony to honour 'visionary' Kohl

Bild reported in its online edition that Kohl died in the morning at his home in Ludwigshafen, in western Germany.

Kohl was a towering figure in European politics in the second half of the 20th century, serving as Germany's chancellor for a record 16 years from 1982 to 1998.

"As an authentic statesman, he knew how to combine pragmatism and a capacity of vision, furnishing a courageous contribution not only tot he fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, but also to overcoming the dramatic divisions which, for decades, had torn Europe". In 1988, Kohl and former French president François Mitterrand received the Charlemagne Prize.

The American Jewish Committee on Saturday said former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who passed away Friday at 87 years old, "was always a champion of European unity and the transatlantic alliance".

Mattarella wrote to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying "I have learned with deep sorrow of the passing of Helmut Kohl, a political personality of extraordinary significance in the recent history of Germany and the whole of Europe".

Once viewed as a provincial bumbler, Kohl combined an understanding of the worries of ordinary Germans with a hunger for power, getting elected four times. "Helmut Kohl was a great German and a great European". "My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed", he added. Former US president George W Bush described the ex-chancellor as "a true friend of freedom and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe".

Chancellor Merkel first entered government under Kohl's rule in 1991.

In 2011, in a series of interviews and statements, he spoke out against Merkel's policy of strict austerity to deal with the European debt crisis. Often harsh and thin-skinned, Kohl also could display a quick wit and jovial earthiness.

In July 2001, Hannelore killed herself at 68 in despair over an incurable allergy to light.

  • Rogelio Becker