Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl has told Germany's "Bild" newspaper that he hopes to meet Hungary's premier Viktor Orban. Could Kohl's wish amount to criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel's asylum policy?
Kohl described Hungarian Prime Minister Orban as a "European with passion," according to Bild's journalist Kai Diekmann, who visited Germany's conservative on his 86th birthday on Sunday.
The Hungarian right-wing populist ranks as one of the sharpest critics of Merkel's policy of wanting to keep borders open to asylum seekers in line with EU and international conventions.
Kohl has on occasions objected to the politics of Merkel, including plans to phase out nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima. Merkel had taken over the leadership of the Christian Democrats in 2000.
The 86-year-old, who is confined to a wheelchair, did not indicate when an encounter with Orban might take place, but Bild said it would presumably occur at Kohl's home in the western German town of Ludwigshafen, near Frankfurt.
No place for 'go-it-alone' decisions
Kohl had also disclosed, said Bild in its Monday edition, that he had already been visited by Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac, an advocate of the Balkans route closure that has left refugees stuck in Greece.
The tabloid also included a quote from an article attributed to Kohl, to be published next month to coincide with the awarding in Aachen of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis.
"Isolated decisions, however well-founded they might seem to the individual, and national go-it-alone moves must belong to the past. They should not be the 21st-century method of choice, particularly because the consequences of the European community's actions must often be carried collectively," Kohl wrote.
Kohl had also shaken his head when asked about tensions between Merkel's Christian Democrat (CDU) party and their Bavarian sister bloc, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
Bavarian premier and CSU leader Horst Seehofer drew criticism from within CDU circles in early March when he visited Orban, a vocal opponent of an EU quota for distributing refugees. Seehofer, in turn, has pressured Merkel on her welcoming refugee policies.
'A few more good years'
Bild said Kohl, when asked by Diekmann about his birthday wish, had replied: "Vigor, and a few more good years."
Last year, he spent 24 critical weeks in hospital, several of them for hip and stomach treatment. Since October, he has been back home, recovering.
Speaking and swallowing were still difficult, Kohl disclosed, but daily he trained on a dynamometer, and over Christmas he had made visits to the Rhine and Speyer, a nearby historic city in his Palatinate home region.
Caring for Kohl is his 51-year-old wife, Maike Kohl-Richter. Kohl added that he seldom watched television, and if so, only the news and football.
Tribute to Genscher
On Saturday, Bild published a eulogy from Kohl for his former foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher of the liberal Free Democrats, who died last Thursday.
Genscher was a "reliable" partner "like no other German foreign minister" who played a laudable role in Germany's reunification, Kohl said.
ipj/msh (dpa, AFP)