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Kohl Calls for U.S. Assistance

Commencement Speaker Envisions `United States of Europe'

By Jonathan S. Cohn

Invoking the spirit--but only some of the substance--of the Marshall Plan, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, speaking at Harvard Commencement exercises earlier this month, called for the United States to work with Germany to help Europe on its way to a "United States of Europe."

With frequent allusions to the 1947 Harvard Commencement Speech given by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, in which Marshall announced his plan to funnel massive financial aid to rebuild war-torn Europe, Kohl said the United States should remain a "European power" in the coming decades.

Kohl, who has emerged as a leading architect of the post-Cold War Europe, insisted the United States must play a crucial role in turning the remnants of East Bloc communism into democracy.

"We must implant democracy where dictatorship prevailed for decades," Kohl said, speaking through a translator. "But for this, too, we need a patnership with our American friends."

To help the process along, Kohl urged that the United States and Western Europe provide assistance--both economic and intellectual--to the young democracies struggling to survive in Eastern Europe.

"I cordially ask our American friends to participate actively in this peace exercise," Kohl said. "It is an investment whose yield will benefit all of us."

Kohl used his Commencement address to again quell fears that a united Germany might threaten the peace in Europe. He not only reaffirmed Germany's commitment to economic integration in 1992, but also predicted that Europe would further integrate by the century's end.

"The unification of Germany will provide a strong impetus for economic community," Kohl said.

In addition, Kohl answered critics who have said a united Europe might threaten either world security or, more directly, American economic interests. He denied that a united Europe would become a fortress of trade barriers, and vowed that the new community would "not be an exclusive club."

"The United States of Europe must therefore be open," Kohl said. "It must not exclude the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks or any other Europeans who want to join this federation."

And in a response to a particularly sensitive issue, Kohl promised that "the border between German and Poland remain inviolable." Earlier this year, Kohl had hinted that border might be negotiable, kindling fears that renewed German nationalism would threaten Europe's post-war peace.

Although Kohl did not make any broad policy announcements, as some experts had hoped, his speech was high on drama and symbolism. The audience of students and alumni--many of whom lived through World War II and the Cold War--enthusiastically applauded the chancellor's frequent references to America's role in maintaining European peace.

"Today's ceremony affords me a special opportunity to thank the American nation for everything it has done for Germany and Europe in the past years and decades," Kohl said.

"German-American friendship is a decisive prerequisite for European and American managing to cope in union with the tasks of the future," Kohl said. "Europe will remain America's closest partner."

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