EU leaders and former heads of state from Europe and elsewhere will meet in Strasbourg on 1 July to pay tribute to the late German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, in the European Parliament.
Union officials told EURACTIV.com that former US President Bill Clinton and Spain’s former Premier, Felipe González, are “almost confirmed” as speakers during the ceremony.
Bill Clinton served as president of the United States when Kohl was chancellor, between 1993 and 1998, a period which prepared the path for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to become members of NATO and the EU.
Invitations are still pending, as details are being finalised with Kohl’s family, the sources added.
The tribute will start in the European Parliament, where the leaders of the EU institutions, the heads of state and government of the EU, MEPs and Kohl’s former colleagues at the European Council are expected to attend the tribute.
The sources explained that the event attracted international attention, as other former leaders from Israel, Canada and Japan expressed interest in travelling to Strasbourg that day.
Once the EU ceremony concludes, the coffin would be transported up the Rhine to the German city of Speyer, where a funeral organised by the German government will take place.
The final stop will be Kohl’s hometown Ludwigshafen, where he will be buried by his family and closest friends in a private ceremony.
Kohl died last Friday (16 June), aged 87, after a long illness which confined him to a wheelchair. He is the longest-serving chancellor of Germany after the Second World War (1982-1998).
EU leaders will organise the first European funeral to honor his memory as he is considered one of the major architects of Europe.
He pushed for the reunification of his country when many leaders were wary of the consequences of a united Germany, and he was a driving force behind the creation of the common currency.
Kohl is one of the few European to enjoy the rare Honorary Citizen of Europe title, together with the French politicians Jean Monnet and Jacques Delors.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who was called “junior” by the German politician, proposed organising an EU ceremony when he heard of the death of his “friend”.
“Helmut’s death hurts me deeply. My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed,” Juncker tweeted.
“He made an almost unparalleled contribution to the restoration of our country’s unity and to European harmony,” Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote in the book of condolences.
Kohl also acted as a mentor for the German chancellor. But she turned against him after it was revealed a party funding scandal that forced him to leave the public life.