EU planning grand ceremony to honour 'visionary' former Chancellor Kohl
The European Commission hopes to organize a grand ceremony to remember former German chancellor and European "visionary" Helmut Kohl, a commission spokeswoman said on Sunday.
"Preparations are already underway," Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker's spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told AFP. "We are in close contact with the German authorities and his family".
Such a rare event would be a fitting tribute to Kohl, recognized as one of three men to hold the title of Honorary Citizen of Europe, along with Frenchmen Jean Monnet and Jacques Delors.
Kohl, widely regarded as the father of German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall and a key player in European integration, died on Friday aged 87.
He helped a Germany that was split during the Cold War between a capitalist West and a communist East make the traumatic transition to a unified democracy.
The towering figure of European contemporary history also worked with France's Francois Mitterrand to shape the European project and pushed Germans to part with their cherished Deutschmarks in favour of the single European currency, the euro.
Juncker described Kohl as the "very essence of Europe".
"Helmut Kohl filled the European house with life - not only because he built bridges to the West as well as to the East, but also because he never ceased to design even better blueprints for the future of Europe," Juncker said.
"Helmut's death hurts me deeply. My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed," he said.
Although no date for the tribute has been announced, it could reportedly take place at the headquarters of the European Parliament in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, near the Swiss border.
Kohl died peacefully in his bed at home in Ludwigshafen, in the southwestern state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said the Bild newspaper, adding that his wife Maike Kohl-Richter was by his side.