Helmut Josef Michael Kohl (German: [ˈhɛlmuːt ˈkoːl]; 3 April 1930 – 16 June 2017) was a German statesman and politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 (of West Germany, 1982–1990; and of reunified Germany, 1990–1998) and as chairman of the CDU from 1973 to 1998. As Chancellor, Kohl was strongly committed to European integration and French–German cooperation in particular; he was also a steadfast ally of the United States and supported Reagan's more aggressive policies in order to weaken the Soviet Union. Kohl's 16-year tenure is the longest of any German Chancellor since Otto von Bismarck.Born in 1930 in Ludwigshafen to a Roman Catholic family, Kohl joined the Christian Democratic Union in 1946 at the age of 16. He earned a PhD in history at Heidelberg University in 1958 and worked as a business executive before becoming a full-time politician. He was elected as the youngest member of the Parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate in 1959 and from 1969 to 1976 was minister president of the Rhineland-Palatinate state. Viewed during the 1960s and the early 1970s as a progressive within the CDU, he was elected national chairman of the party in 1973. In the 1976 federal election his party performed well, but the social-liberal government of social democrat Helmut Schmidt was able to remain in power, as well as in 1980, when Kohl's rival from the Bavarian sister party CSU, Franz Josef Strauß, was the CDU/CSU candidate. After Schmidt had lost the support of the liberal FDP in 1982, Kohl was elected Chancellor through a switch of the FDP, forming a Christian-liberal government. After he had become party leader, Kohl was increasingly seen as a more conservative figure. Kohl chaired the Group of Seven in 1985 and 1992. In 1998 he became honorary chairman of the CDU, resigning from the position in 2000.
Kohl was also a central figure in the eastern enlargement of the European Union, and his government led the effort to push for international recognition of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina when the states declared independence. He played an instrumental role in solving the Bosnian War. Domestically, Kohl's policies focused on economic reforms and later also on the process of integrating former East Germany into reunified Germany, and he moved the federal capital from the "provisional capital" Bonn back to Berlin, although he himself never resided there because the government offices were only relocated in 1999. Kohl also greatly increased federal spending on arts and culture. After his chancellorship, Kohl's reputation suffered domestically because of his role in the CDU donations scandal and he had to resign from his honorary chairmanship of the CDU after little more than a year in January 2000, but he was partly rehabilitated in later years. The later Chancellor Angela Merkel started her political career as Kohl's protegée.
Kohl was married to Hannelore Kohl during his entire political career, and they had two sons, Walter Kohl and Peter Kohl. Following his death, Kohl was honoured with the first-ever European act of state in Strasbourg.