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Wednesday, February 18, 1998 Published at 08:16 GMT


Kohl to be given honorary freedom of the City of London

The German leader, Helmut Kohl, is to become the first European leader to be given the freedom of the City of London.

Judith Mayhew of the City of London Corporation defends the decision (3' 31")
The award is being given on Wednesday, "in recognition of his statesmanship within and outside the European Union and for his work to bring about the unification of his own country."

The Corporation of London, which will confer the honour, said it was appropriate it should be given during the current British presidency of the European Union.

Chancellor Kohl is expected to arrive in London for a meeting with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at Downing Street.

[ image: The Guildhall is the oldest secular stone building standing in the City]
The Guildhall is the oldest secular stone building standing in the City
After the meeting the two leaders will join former PM John Major at the ceremony at the Guildhall.

However, one war veteran - also a freeman - wants his honour withdrawn in protest.

Roy Faiers, ex-naval man and editor of Cheltenham-based nostalgia magazine This England, wrote to the Lord Mayor saying the decision to reward Mr Kohl for services to Europe unity would be "greatly resented by millions of ordinary British people".

The origins of the honour date back to medieval times when craftsmen and women organised themselves into trade guilds.

Until the early 19th century only freemen enjoyed trading privileges in the City and had a say in government.

Other past recipients of the award include Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Diana Princess of Wales, Nelson, Wellington and Disraeli.

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