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World Leaders Pay Tribute To Former German Chancellor Kohl


World Leaders Attend Memorial Ceremony For Former German Chancellor Kohl
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WATCH: World Leaders Attend Memorial Ceremony For Chancellor Kohl (natural sound)

World leaders have paid tribute to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the main architect of German reunification, in a July 1 ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Kohl, who died on June 16 aged 87, is the first person to be honored with an official memorial event by the European Union.

Dignitaries paid respects at his coffin, which was draped in the EU flag.

During his 16-year term as Germany's leader, from 1982 to 1998, Kohl was as a major driving force behind closer European integration.

"Helmut Kohl was a true European and a friend. Europe owes him a lot," said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, the only current leader in Europe to have worked alongside him.

Juncker said the ceremony at the European Parliament's seat in the French city of Strasbourg, close to the border with Germany, was the choice of Kohl himself.

Speakers at the ceremony included the current German and French leaders Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron as well as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, former U.S. President Clinton, and former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said Kohl's vision and persistence had paid a historic dividend.

"Without Helmut Kohl the lives of millions of people who lived behind the [Berlin] Wall until 1990 would have taken a completely different course, including mine," said Merkel.

"Thank you for the opportunities you gave me,” she added.

Following the ceremony in Strasbourg, Kohl's coffin was transported by helicopter to Germany and then taken down the River Rhine to Speyer, with thousands of people lining the roads and riverbanks to bid their farewell.

Kohl was to be laid to rest in a private ceremony at a cemetery in Speyer.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, and the BBC