Population: 61 million Per Capita GDP: $24,298 Total 1987 Trade: $693 billion
The largest leader at the annual economic summits since 1983 presides over Europe’s biggest economic power. At six feet, four inches tall and well over 200 lb., Helmut Kohl’s nickname is “the black bear.” His country rivals the United States in per-capita production of wealth and in trade. At age 58, he has been chancellor since October, 1982, controlling the centreright coalition government that is led by his Christian Democratic Party. Despite that, his critics maintain that Kohl is at times a bumbling politician.
But Kohl, a Christian Democrat for 40 years, displays a profound understanding of party politics. His practice of evading provocative confrontations was expected to carry him through the Toronto summit meeting, his sixth, where he again faces pressure to expand the West German economy to encourage imports and help relieve the trade deficits plaguing some of its summit partners. But Kohl, who is expected to face a federal election within two years, is unlikely to erode domestic support by changing economic direction in a way that might stimulate inflation at home.
Already, his party has experienced setbacks at the state level in recent elections, and some of its members have been linked to several scandals. But the national leader retains support in his basic conservative constituency, according to opinion polls. And although others in his cabinet may surpass Kohl in stylishness and intellect, there are no obvious rivals for the leadership, including the senior men accompanying Kohl in Toronto—Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Finance Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg and Economics Minister Martin Bangemann.
Indeed, the chancellor’s popularity among the electors may well be rooted in a widespread perception of Kohl as a leader with a nonelitist manner—genial but a nervous public speaker, shy before the cameras, a
man who loves fine food but who retreats at least once a year to a spa to diet. He plays loud, classical trumpet music in his office and in his Mercedes-Benz, keeps an aquarium and likes to hike and collect rocks, usually adding to his collection on visits abroad.
In the four days before the summit, Kohl scheduled an address to Parliament, a speech at the University of Toronto and a visit to Kitchener, Ont., formerly named Berlin. That city’s large German-Canadian community is part of Canada’s third-largest ethnic group—almost 900,000 people of exclusively German origin—after those of British and French descent. And West Germany is the third-largest source of foreign investment in Canada, following the United States and Britain. For Kohl, his extended visit is a rare opportunity to reinforce the ethnic and economic ties between Germany and Canada.
PATRICIA CHISHOLM with
AMBASSADOR WOLFGANG BEHRENDS
His postings during a 36-year career in the West German foreign service have included the teeming cities of Hong Kong, New Delhi and Cairo, as well as Paris and Vienna. But Wolfgang Behrends says that he prefers living in such “compact” urban centres as Ottawa, where he has been Bonn’s ambassador for almost five years. Before being assigned to
Canada, he served as representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. A lawyer with degrees from West Germany’s University of Göttingen and George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Behrends also is a specialist in political and military affairs. His experience as a diplomat has persuaded Behrends that the annual econom-
ic summits are important because, he says, they represent “the very important top echelon of a system that has evolved over the years to ensure that the seven biggest economies
co-operate closely.” Divorced and the father of three daughters—two live in West Germany and one is a student in Toronto — Behrends at 62 says that in his spare time he is a student of wine, enjoys entertaining and good food, and he likes to go cross-country skiing in the winter in the nearby Gatineau Hills. He enjoys living in Ottawa “because I hate big cities, and this isn’t one. I am very happy here.” □
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