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Gorbachev died at a time of ‘failed’ Russian democracy: German Chancellor Scholz

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday hailed Mikhail Gorbachev's role in reuniting Germany but lamented that the last Soviet leader's attempt to establish enduring democracy in Russia had "failed".

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Pariser Platz with the Brandenburg Gate behind him in Berlin, Germany, November 8th, 2014.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Pariser Platz with the Brandenburg Gate behind him in Berlin, Germany, November 8th, 2014. Photo: Jens Kalaene/dpa

“The democracy movements in central and eastern Europe benefited from the fact he was in power then in Russia,” Scholz said of the years leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

However Gorbachev “died at a time in which democracy has failed in Russia”.

Calling him a “courageous reformer” and “a statesman who dared a lot”, Scholz said his “perestroika”, Gorbachev’s drive to modernise the Soviet economy and society, had paved the way for broader “democracy and freedom in Europe”.

That new wind blowing at the end of the Cold War allowed “Germany to be unified and the Iron Curtain to disappear”, Scholz said.

He regretted the path Russia had taken in the intervening years and that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had “started a terrible war against a neighbour, Ukraine.

“That is all the more reason why we think of Mikhail Gorbachev and know what significance he had for the development of Europe and our own country in the last years.”     

Asked later whether he would consider attending Gorbachev’s funeral in Russia, which is subject to sweeping Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine, Scholz said it was “too soon” to discuss such a trip.

“But I will say that I hope he will be honoured in the way he deserves,” Scholz said.

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute Gorbachev as a “unique world politician” who demonstrated how “one single statesman can change the world for the better”.

“The images of his meeting with (West German) chancellor Helmut Kohl in the Caucasus in 1990 are unforgettable, with which Germany reunification in peace and freedom also came within reach,” said Merkel, who grew up in East Germany.

“Mikhail Gorbachev also fundamentally changed my life. I will never forget that.”

READ ALSO: 10 things you never knew about German reunification

Several other German politicians also paid tribute to the Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate shortly after his death.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a tweet: “Gorbachev was guided by peace and understanding between people at fateful moments in our history. The end of the Cold War and German unity are his legacy. We mourn the loss of a statesman to whom we are eternally grateful.”

Without Gorbachev, “the peaceful revolutions in the countries of the Eastern bloc, in our country, would not have been conceivable in this way,” said Bundestag Vice President and Green Party politician Katrin Göring-Eckardt on Twitter.

“His words have encouraged us, have made me, strong.”

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POLITICS

Germany’s Scholz ‘concerned’ about possible far-right election win in France

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday he was "concerned" about the prospect of a victory for the far-right in France's upcoming parliamentary elections.

Germany's Scholz 'concerned' about possible far-right election win in France

President Emmanuel Macron’s party is trailing badly with less than two weeks to go before the first round of the snap elections he called in response to the far right drubbing his party in European polls.

“I am concerned about the elections in France,” Scholz told public broadcaster ARD in an annual summer interview.

“And I hope that parties that are not (Marine) Le Pen, to put it that way, are successful in the election. But that is for the French people to decide,” he added.

Opinion polls forecast Macron’s ruling alliance would come third in the legislative elections on June 30 — followed by a second round on July 7 — behind Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN), and a new left-wing alliance.

This could make RN leader Jordan Bardella France’s next prime minister, although the 28-year-old has insisted he will only accept this if his party and allies win an absolute majority of seats.

Germany’s far-right AfD party also made gains at this month’s European Parliament elections, while Scholz’s ruling coalition suffered.

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