Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was awarded the Henry A. Kissinger Prize by the American Academy in Berlin for his role in Germany’s reunification.
Kohl, 81, received the honor at a ceremony today with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel lauding his achievements at the American Academy in Berlin.
“The 21st century in Europe really began on his watch,” said Clinton in a speech in which he described Kohl as an inspiration. “I can’t tell you how many times I knew what the right thing was because of what he had already done.”
Kohl was chancellor between 1982 and 1998, first in West Germany, then of the unified country after East and West Germany merged in 1990 at the end of the Cold War. Germans voted out his Christian Democrats in 1998, handing the chancellor’s post to Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder.
Kohl, who said he first visited Berlin in 1945 as a 15-year-old boy after Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s suicide, urged Germans to look beyond Europe’s current problems.
“We have reached our big goal,” he said, referring to German and European unification.
The prize has been given annually since 2007 to a European or U.S. citizen for outstanding contributions to the trans-Atlantic relationship. Previous recipients are former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, former German President Richard von Weizsaecker and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News. Norman Pearlstine, chairman of Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg chief content officer, is president of the American Academy in Berlin.