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On the passing away of Helmut Schmidt: Statement by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

EU News 326/2015

Brussels, 10 November 2015

The news of Helmut Schmidt’s death has touched me deeply. He was a friend who will be sorely missed both by me and by Europe. For in him we are losing a very special person, a person whose political courage inspired many people.

For almost a century, the history of this continent forged him and made of him a committed European. Guided by this, he helped shape the history and destiny of Germany and Europe as Federal Chancellor – and it was thanks to him and his close friendship with French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing that Franco-German relations were deepened not just on paper but on every level. Together they established the European Monetary System, so paving the way for the euro.

Helmut Schmidt said of himself that he was no European idealist. His commitment to Europe, then, is proof that the European endeavour is not a task for lofty idealists but one for European realists. 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. He repeatedly called for a common economic policy, but he was also always aware that commitment to Europe meant there must be give and take – and equally that it sometimes meant telling people truths they did not wish to hear.

Well beyond the end of his term of office as Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt never lost his sense of responsibility, setting a signal example of political honesty, and that uprightness meant his contributions to political debate carried considerable weight. His impatience – often justified – at the length of time it took Europe to reach a compromise was sometimes a source of discomfort but always valuable in helping to move Europe forward. Helmut Schmidt was notable for his courage in one respect in particular: the courage to think into the future. That courage is his message to us never to give up where Europe is concerned.

My thoughts are with all those who were close to him.

Source and additional information:

File Photo: First meeting of the Committee for the Monetary Union of Europe. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Jacques Delors, and Helmut Schmidt. Date: 18/12/1986 Reference: P-006383/04-22 Location: Brussels - EC/Berlaymont (C)EU, 1986 URL