BERLIN - Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, deemed the father of national reunification, on Thursday urged closer EU integration and warned that "Europe remains a question of war and peace".
In a rare interview ahead of May 22-25 European parliamentary elections Kohl, one of the key architects of the continent's push toward unity, also said Europe must be "a matter of the heart" for its people.
"Europe is our future," Kohl told top-selling Bild daily. "Europe is our destiny. Europe remains a question of war and peace with everything that involves, including not just peace but freedom, prosperity and democracy." The 84-year-old, one of Europe's few surviving elder statesmen with personal memories of World War II, said he was "filled with concern" about the Ukraine crisis and stand-off with Russia.
"This is a very serious situation. Above all, we now have to quickly resume talks with one another. My life's experience tells me that this is possible - as long as we really want to." The Christian Democrat said he wanted conservative parties to win the European elections and his "friend", Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, to become the next European Commission president.
Kohl said he agreed with the EU's current system under which national leaders propose a candidate for the Commission presidency who must then be confirmed in a vote by the European Parliament.
Looking ahead, Kohl said the EU's most urgent task remains to "get the finances back in order. Everyone is called upon to meet their responsibilities, the member states as well as Brussels." "Beyond this, the political union must be placed back on the agenda," he said. "This includes not just questions of economic and financial policy but also, especially, foreign and security policy." Kohl, who was 15 years old when WWII ended, is a passionate European who has often argued that building an integrated Europe is crucial to ensuring that war will never again ravage the continent.
The triumph of his 16-year rule, the longest reign in Germany's post-war history, was overseeing the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the country's peaceful reunification the following year.