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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 15:15 GMT
Kohl lambasts 'ice-cold' Thatcher
By Ray Furlong
BBC News, Berlin

Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher
Mr Kohl says having Mrs Thatcher as an opponent was unpleasant

"Margaret Thatcher always gave me headaches. Above all, during the process of German reunification in 1989 she played an unfriendly, dangerous role."

Helmut Kohl does not mince his words in the newly-published second volume of his memoirs, covering the years 1982-90.

He said the main issues covered in the book were his successful fight to get American Pershing missiles deployed in Germany in the early 1980s, and the achievement of German reunification in 1990.

But the book also casts an intriguing light on his dealings with world leaders, especially his fraught relationship with Margaret Thatcher.

"She was ice-cold in pursuit of her interests," writes Mr Kohl, recalling Mrs Thatcher's fight to win a rebate from Britain's contributions to the European budget.

"She walked out of the meeting in the morning. And when a compromise was finally reached which allowed her to appear the winner, she didn't even say thank you."


The breakthrough came at the Fontainebleau summit in June 1984.

"The British prime minister, who had completely isolated herself with her position, temporarily lost her nerves and completely lost her temper with me. She argued that Germany had to support Britain because British troops were stationed here," he writes.

Even Margaret Thatcher could not prevent the German people from following their destiny
Helmut Kohl

In the end, Britain won agreement on a 66% rebate from Britain's budget contribution. But the clashes went on at repeated European summits.

"My relationship with the British prime minister was getting ever more difficult," writes Mr Kohl around 100 pages later.

Speaking at the launch of the book, he praised Mrs Thatcher for her passion and honesty in politics.

But he added: "To have her as an opponent is very, very unpleasant. And the opposition doesn't end in the evening - it continues again in the morning. My own experience with her was that on the most important issues, we had completely different opinions."


But if he had problems with Mrs Thatcher, it was nothing to those felt by French President Francois Mitterrand.

"The fact that he could barely contain his animosity towards her was mainly due to the fact that Margaret Thatcher always blamed the continental Europeans for everything - be it rabies among foxes or another epidemic that had broken out among rabbits and threatened Britain," he writes.

Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl is now working on a third set of memoirs
"Mitterrand got mildly angry, and then made fun of the 'Iron Lady'. She often took it very badly and insulted us as a men's club that wasn't taking her seriously."

But on German reunification, Mr Kohl had difficulties with both leaders.

He recalls a dinner in Paris nine days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, at which Mrs Thatcher again allegedly lost her temper - when he pointed to a Nato resolution dating from 1970, calling for German unity.

"I remained calm and said Nato had approved this statement, and that it was still valid. Even Margaret Thatcher could not prevent the German people from following their destiny," he writes.

"Beside herself with rage, Thatcher stamped her feet and shouted: 'That's what you think!' Mitterrand seemed to approve of her position."


Mr Kohl accuses Mr Mitterrand of playing a "double-game" with him, promising to support reunification while secretly opposing it.

But his relationship with the French leader was much better, and he describes how he persuaded him to change his position during several long walks on the beach at Mr Mitterrand's holiday home near Bordeaux in January 1990.

At the book launch, Mr Kohl said it was "a stroke of luck" that there were a number of world leaders in power with whom he had a trustful and productive relationship that went beyond politics.

In particular, he recalled Mr Mitterrand's funeral in 1996.

"As I sat in Notre Dame at the funeral, I was deeply moved. It was not the president who was being buried. It was a personal friend."

Wife's plea

Other leaders praised by Mr Kohl include Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, and especially George Bush.

"George Bush was, for me, the most important ally on the road to German unity," he writes. "We were united not only by political respect for each other, but also by deep mutual sympathy as people."

Mr Kohl said he had been prompted to write his memoirs by various factors. His late wife, Hannelore, has asked him to do so in a letter she wrote him before her suicide.

But also, he said he wanted to set the record straight after what he called "falsification" of the history of his time in office.

Mr Kohl is now working on a third volume, which will deal with the 1990s, including the Maastricht Treaty, the establishment of the euro, and his own fall from grace in a party financing scandal.

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03 Oct 05 |  Europe
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22 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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