Helmut Josef Michael Kohl (German: [ˈhɛlmuːt ˈkoːl]; 3 April 1930 – 16 June 2017) was a German statesman and Christian Democratic politician who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 (of West Germany 1982–1990 and of reunified Germany 1990–1998) and as the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (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 was the longest of any German Chancellor since Otto von Bismarck. He oversaw the end of the Cold War and the German reunification, for which he is generally known as Chancellor of Unity. Together with French President François Mitterrand, Kohl was the architect of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union (EU) and the Euro currency, and in 1988 both received the Charlemagne Prize. Kohl was described as "the greatest European leader of the second half of the 20th century" by U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In 1998 Kohl became the second person to be named Honorary Citizen of Europe by the European heads of state or government.
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, candidated. 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 the former East Germany into the reunited 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 honored with the first ever European Act of State in Strasbourg.