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Former German leader Helmut Kohl has died at the age of 87

The so-called “father of reunification” was Germany’s longest-serving chancellor.

Image: Michael Probst/AP/Press Association Images

FORMER GERMAN CHANCELLOR Helmut Kohl has died at the age of 87.

Kohl, who was Germany’s longest-serving leader, was chancellor when the Berlin Wall fell 28 years ago.

He died at home today in Ludwigshafen in the south-west of Germany.

Between 1982 and 1998, the so-called “father of reunification” led first West Germany and then reunited Germany.

He helped a divided Germany navigate the difficult transition to a reunified country, and later worked with France’s Francois Mitterand to put Germany at the core of the European project.

Tributes poured in for the man former US president George HW Bush hailed as “one of the greatest” postwar leaders, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker called the “very essence of Europe”.

Juncker described Kohl as “a great European and a very close friend”, saying:

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.

Also underlining his contributions, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called Kohl “a great statesman, a great German politician, and above all a great European, who did much not only to bring German unity but also for Europe to become one”.

“This is his great legacy. This is what we will remember him for. Our thoughts are with his family and children. A truly great German has died,” said Gabriel in a statement

Together with former French president Francois Mitterrand, Kohl pushed through the introduction of a European single currency.

He was a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the centre-right party currently led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

His relationship with Merkel, his former protege, disintegrated after she called on him to resign from the CDU when it emerged that the party had received illegal donations during his tenure as leader.

In recent years, Kohl had strongly championed closer European integration and criticised Merkel’s handling of the eurozone’s debt crisis.

He is survived his second wife, Maike Richter-Kohl, and two children.

Read: How Angela Merkel rose to the top job in Germany >

Read: Former German chancellor denies he said Merkel is ‘ruining my European dream’ >

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Catherine Healy

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