World leaders react to Helmut Schmidt death

AFP , Tuesday 10 Nov 2015

File Photo: Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of the Social Democratic SPD party during an election campaign in Hamburg, northern Germany January 17, 2011 (Photo: AFP)

French President Francois Hollande led world leaders in paying tribute to former West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, praising him as a "great European".

Below are the main reactions to Schmidt's death on Tuesday:

Francois Hollande said that a "great European has died", adding that Schmidt was a great statesman who "always illuminated the debate".

"When he was chancellor, he laid the ground for decisions later taken by (ex-French president) Francois Mitterrand and (ex-chancellor) Helmut Kohl," Hollande said, praising him for giving a "social dimension to the market economy".

"He was a man who, until his final breath, knew how to give a speech and especially to tell Germans that they had a role to play ... that it was within Europe that they should act," he added.

Rutte hailed Schmidt as a "great statesman that was already a historic figure while alive."

"Helmut Schmidt experienced modern German history first-hand. He was a man of deed and spoke with great conviction. He remained an authoritative figure even after his work as chancellor. His death is a great loss for Germany," he said in The Hague.

Faymann said the former leader "left his mark not only on Germany, but on all of Europe", adding that Schmidt was a "key architect to a peaceful and united Europe".

Juncker hailed Schmidt as a "friend" who would be "sorely missed."

"For almost a century, the history of this continent forged him and made of him a committed European," said Juncker in a statement.

"He strove to bring our continent closer together with a passion equalled by few, in part because he always understood that we must stick together if we wish to play a substantial role on the world stage."

The New York-based World Jewish Congress (WJC) said Schmidt, the first German ever to be honoured by the WJC, will be "greatly missed".

"After experiencing the horrors of the Nazi era and World War II as a soldier, he became an advocate of peace and stability in the world," the WJC said in a statement.

"When he visited the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1977, Chancellor Schmidt said this: 'In Auschwitz and Birkenau, nobody can escape the truth that politics is more than the quest for power and the fight between different interests, but that it needs a moral foundation and an ethical orientation'."

Schulz called Schmidt an "extraordinary German chancellor" and "a man who made a mark on social democracy in Germany and Europe like few others".

The European Parliament leader praised Schmidt's intelligence and "plain language", adding that the former German chancellor "laid the foundation for the euro and economic and monetary union" with "great foresight".

The head of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, called Schmidt "a truly great patriot, a great European and a great Social Democrat" who was also "one of the greatest statesmen of our country."

Schmidt "shaped our country" with confidence, realism and vigour and was a firm believer in a strong Europe and Germany's friendship with France, said Gabriel, adding that "I believe that his legacy is Europe".

Germany's president Joachim Gauck described Schmidt as "a man of action ... but above all a democrat, a man who know that freedom also means responsibility and who took on this responsibility."

"He loved freedom because he had experienced war, he protected in times of threats what was close to him and all our hearts -- our freedom, our democracy and peace."

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