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Helmut Kohl is the former chancellor of Germany. He was interviewed for Global Viewpoint last week by FOCUS editors Helmut Markwort and Henning Krumrey. Nov. 9 is the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: In your opinion, which Social Democrat could join you in good conscience in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall?

HELMUT KOHL: Many Social Democrats, of course, advocated German unity with me, but not many of the active ministers in the German government today. Willy Brandt, however, was one of those who supported German unity at that time. In the evening following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Brandt assured (then Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev along with me that the people in East Berlin would not proceed against Soviet establishments. He was of great help in that respect.

GV: But now everybody is a champion of unification, aren't they?

KOHL: A lot of the forgetfulness about the position of people who
opposed unification 10 years ago is just unbearable. Who among those in power today would have traveled to Budapest at that time or would have stood on the balcony of the German Embassy in Prague? Who among those stood up for German unity then?

At the time, Mr. (Gerhard) Schroeder (currently German chancellor) was a strong supporter of (former East German leader) Erich Honecker's demands. He wanted to give up the one single
German citizenship and introduce separate citizenships for the Federal Republic of Germany and German Democratic Republic. This is not to mention the demand for closure of the registration office for SED (the East German Communist Party) crimes in Salzgitter. When I see who's now talking big about German unity, I can only shake my head -- to put it mildly.

GV: How do you explain the growing popularity of the PDS (the reformed East German Communist Party) in Germany?

KOHL: It is not an accident that the key Communist parties in all
countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe are experiencing a great deal of voter validation. The division was much more profound, especially with respect to psychological factors, than we were all able to see. Then very SED supporters and functionaries and those who profited from the old system are often financially much better off today than in the GDR days. Nevertheless, they are still giving their vote to the SED heirs. And there is a considerable portion of young people who were unable to understand this in the short amount of time. Also, many of them did not receive much help in grasping the new circumstances of life.

GV: How long will it take for mindsets and basic attitudes to adjust?

KOHL: We are showing an approval rate of 80 to 90 percent with respect to German unity in the New and Old Bundeslander. I consider these surveys to be reliable. That's a very good result. As far as the financial reality is concerned, let's wait another five to eight years.

That's only a short amount of time, considering also that 95 percent of the GDR companies were involved in traderelations with the Eastern Bloc. But of course, the billions in aid we have given are already showing an enormous effect.

GV: What is your assessment of the foreign policy of the Schroeder administration?

KOHL: Here is my view, and you can judge from this how the new
government is doing as far as I am concerned: We Germans must not forget who we are. This includes our history, with its glorious as well as atrocious chapters. We are the country in the heart of Europe with the longest overall borders. What happens in Germany is of more interest than what happens in other countries.

German foreign policy at the end of the century has to live with the experiences of the entire century. Many have not forgotten those experiences. For German foreign policy, this means approaching
our friends with tact, sensitivity, receptiveness for their problems
but also self-confidence.

So, Germany must act neither in a conformist nor in a subservient
fashion. Everybody knows that we are the strongest country in the European Community, but we don't have to rub this in every day. It is crucial that the principle of quality and not quantity reigns within the European Community. That is why our contact with the smaller countries was so important to us. With them in particular we should not have the attitude of the wealthy relative inviting the poor relatives to the Christmas dinner table.

GV: Does this apply to Germany's relations to France as well?

KOHL: Our friendship with France is the most precious achievement of our post-war foreign policy. France has her own national identity and has always looked upon herself as the
"grande nation.'' Of course we could challenge the French as to why they see themselves like that, but it is more reasonable to accept their feeling of their own worth. Just like in private life, friendship has to be nurtured; it is not a one-way street.

Foreign policy cannot be measured by the standards of the General Accounting Office. We do not always have to make out a receipt for everything. This strategy has always paid off for us.

An example? Normally we would not have been able to bring the European Central Bank to Frankfurt. In the decisive meeting of the Council of Europe on the issue, Francois Mitterrand gave a fiery speech in favor of Paris as the one and only seat of the ECB. Then John Major came up even better arguments for London. But both said: We are not voting against Germany and not against Helmut Kohl.

Incidentally, it was this decision about where to place the bank that made it obvious that the construction of the "House of Europe'' is of vital significance or, as Francois Mitterrand put it, a matter of war and peace. I was ridiculed for this position by many at that time. Today, however, I hear this sentence from the mouth of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer on every occasion.

GV: Have Schroeder and Fischer caused harm in Germany's relation with France?

KOHL: I'm not saying that we put up with everything, but there is,
again and again, a lack of the required sensitivity for this friendship. Fortunately, the French-German friendship is no longer dependent on governments. It is a friendship between the two nations.

This government, it seems, is constantly tempted to cut the umbilical cord from history. But you can't engage in foreign policy without the historical reference.

GV: In the short run, wouldn't it be simpler to dispense with these

KOHL: That might be useful for the moment. But the lesson I learned is: What's right in private life is also right in politics. And what is wrong in private life is also wrong in politics. You won't have friends if you always look at friendship as a one-way street.

(c) 1999, European Viewpoint/FOCUS. Distributed by the Los AngelesTimes Syndicate

For immediate release (Distributed 11/3/99)

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