Helmut Kohl criticises ‘unilateralist actions’ in EU

Former German chancellor’s essay appears to refer to migrant strategy of Angela Merkel

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl  with Chancellor Angela Merkel during an official 80th birthday reception for Dr Kohl in his home town of Ludwigshafen in 2010. They are believed to have had an uneasy relationship for many years. Photograph: Torsten Silz/AFP/Getty Images

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl with Chancellor Angela Merkel during an official 80th birthday reception for Dr Kohl in his home town of Ludwigshafen in 2010. They are believed to have had an uneasy relationship for many years. Photograph: Torsten Silz/AFP/Getty Images

 

German ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl has delivered a birthday broadside against his estranged protégé Angela Merkel, warning against unilateral action in Europe – no matter how good the intentions.

On the first day of European expulsions of migrants to Turkey, Dr Kohl’s remarks appear targeted at the German leader, who pushed for the deal with Ankara, though he never mentions her by name.

“Solitary decisions, no matter how well-founded they may appear to individuals, must belong to the past – along with national, unilateralist action,” writes Dr Kohl in an essay to appear next month, the Bild tabloid reported.

Bild publisher Kai Diekmann attended Dr Kohl’s 86th birthday party on Sunday in his Ludwigshafen home.

In today’s edition, he quotes from Dr Kohl’s essay to say that unilateralism in the EU “should not be a means of choice – especially as the consequences regularly have to be carried together by the European union of common destiny”.

Some in Berlin have interpreted his remarks as criticism of Dr Merkel’s decision last summer to take in Syrian migrants without consulting first with other EU capitals.

Despite being in poor health and wheelchair-bound, Dr Kohl got the boot into Dr Merkel a second time in Monday’s tabloid, announcing plans to meet Hungarian president Viktor Orbán in the near future.

Mr Orbán is perhaps the least popular European leader in Berlin, thanks to his vocal opposition to Dr Merkel’s calls for an EU-wide redistribution of refugees from Syria.

Bild suggested that Dr Kohl does not share Dr Merkel’s irritation with Mr Orbán, and that the ex-chancellor defended him as a “heart-and-soul European”.

Dr Kohl has had an uneasy relationship with Dr Merkel for the last 16 years. In 1990 he brought her into his first post-unification cabinet but, a decade later, she shafted him over a political donation scandal and assumed leadership of his Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Though Dr Merkel insists she has a good relationship with her mentor, sources close to Dr Kohl say there is little love lost between the two.

His last broadside against Dr Merkel came in the middle of the euro crisis in 2011. Again without mentioning her by name, Dr Kohl warned that Berlin’s “erratic” foreign policy risked breaking up the EU.

It was unclear “where Germany stands and where it wants to go”, he warned. Unless Germany revived its “old reliability”, it would squander trust and isolate Germany again “something nobody can really want”.

Dr Kohl has suffered poor health in recent years after suffering a fall. He spent almost half of last year in hospital for a hip operation and resulting complications.

Now back at home, Bild pictures showed a frail and gaunt ex-chancellor who “regularly shakes his head” when he hears reports of EU tensions over the refugee crisis and the fight against terrorism.

Days after the death of his former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Dr Kohl told Bild he wished on his birthday for “strength, and a few more good years”.