* Merkel and former mentor Kohl to appear at Berlin event
* After early criticism of Greece, Merkel shifts on Europe
* Foreign minister, foundations actively promote Europe
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN, Sept 20 Angela Merkel is seeking help
from her estranged, former mentor Helmut Kohl, architect of the
euro, to restore voter faith in the European project before next
Realising her own future is tied to that of the EU, Merkel
has in the last month softened her rhetoric towards the most
indebted euro zone states. Next week she will make a rare joint
appearance with former Christian Democrat (CDU) chancellor Kohl.
The German leader's tough approach to the euro debt crisis
has boosted her popularity in the last two years and polls show
she is in a strong position to win the September 2013 vote.
But she needs to ensure traditional conservatives in her own
party maintain discipline in the run-up to the vote after some
were angered by her defence of European Central Bank President
Mario Draghi's bond-buying plan for stricken euro states - a
scheme the German Bundesbank opposes.
Merkel must also convince the broader electorate of the need
for closer EU integration, seen as crucial to the currency's
long-term survival. A poll this week showed almost two thirds of
Germans would prefer to live without the euro and 49 percent
without the EU.
Getting the 82-year-old Kohl, Germany's longest serving
chancellor, on board is something of a coup for Merkel.
The statesman is known to bear a grudge against Merkel for
turning on him in 1999 over a party funding scandal that tainted
his image, and has voiced veiled criticism of her handling of
"A reconciliation with Kohl has important symbolic value, he
still commands wide respect especially on the issue of Europe,"
said Klaus-Peter Schoeppner, head of the Emnid polling group.
Schoeppner sees the joint appearance, to mark 30 years since
Kohl became chancellor, as part of a shift in Merkel's strategy
to broaden her message and sell the benefits of Europe.
Kohl, frail and wheelchair-bound, is seen as the architect
of German reunification and was a driving force, along with
French President Francois Mitterrand, behind the creation of the
He plucked Merkel out of obscurity in the former communist
East after the fall of the Berlin Wall and she quickly became a
protegee. Kohl brought her into the first post-reunification
cabinet, referring to her as his "Maedchen", or girl.
But Kohl, who grew up in World War Two and religiously
stresses that the euro holds the key to ensuring lasting peace
in Europe, has been unimpressed with her crisis management.
Last year he criticised Merkel's foreign and European
policy, saying it lacked direction and that she was making
Germany an undependable partner. According to Der Spiegel
weekly, Kohl complained to a friend: "She is destroying my
Europe" although he has since denied saying that.
Not least to protect his euro legacy, Kohl will let bygones
be bygones on Sept. 27 and sit alongside Merkel at Berlin's
Historical Museum with former European Commission President
Jacques Delors to hear speeches honouring him.
Other events include a visit to conservatives in parliament
by Kohl, who rarely leaves his home in the small western town of
Oggersheim, and festivities in the former capital of Bonn.
"Kohl is supposed to help Merkel keep the CDU on a
pro-European path. He stands for a Europe that is not dominated
by an incomprehensible alphabet-soup of EFSFs and ESMs. For the
chancellor, Kohl is a welcome bulwark against euro populists
such as individuals in (Bavaria's) Christian Social Union,"
(CSU) wrote Der Spiegel.
Scarred by guilt about World War Two, Germans have always
been committed to the idea of the EU but many were reluctant to
give up the deutsche Mark, a symbol of West Germany's post-war
economic miracle, for the euro.
That the euro has fueled export-led growth in Europe's
biggest economy is a point often lost on Germans, many of whom
see themselves as victims of the euro debt crisis and resent the
310 billion euros in guarantees to the area's most indebted
For months, dissenters in Merkel's conservative ranks have
voted against bailout funds in parliament. Some in the CSU have
stepped up calls for Greece to leave the euro zone - a scenario
Merkel is desperate to avoid before the election.
Merkel's swift rebuke to the most vocal critics of Greece is
a sign of the more diplomatic approach she has adopted towards
her EU partners since the summer break.
"Europe is in a decisive phase... we have to weigh our words
very carefully," she said last month.
In meetings with Italy's Mario Monti and Greek Prime
Minister Antonis Samaras. Merkel has shifted her emphasis,
praising austerity measures she knows she could never force on
German voters and avoiding the threats she made a year ago.
"She has eased off on the bashing of the southern European
states," said Peter Matuschek of the Forsa polling group. "She
has realised she can't ovestretch these countries and has
changed her rhetoric accordingly."
Merkel has also dispatched Foreign Minister Guido
Westerwelle, a member of her Free Democrat (FDP) coalition
partners, to promote the political and cultural values of
"Europe has a price but it also has its value," Westerwelle
said in a speech on Tuesday, pointing to freedom, democracy and
the protection of minority rights as pillars of the bloc.
He is leading the "Future of Europe Group" of 11 EU foreign
ministers, who have drawn up proposals to set up a European
Monetary Fund, strengthen the European parliament and give more
clout to the European Commission.
To counter anti-euro sentiment in Germany, an "I want
Europe" publicity campaign was launched last month in which
prominent Germans, from footballer Philipp Lahm to Daimler chief
Dieter Zetsche and former chancellor Helmut Kohl declare their
commitment to the European project.
Initiated by the Mercator and Robert Bosch foundations, the
television, print and online campaign has German President
Joachim Gauck as its patron. Its aim is to influence the German
debate on Europe, dominated until now by a media-driven
narrative of lazy, spendthrift Greeks keen for German cash.
"There was an initial desire (in Europe) to punish Greece
rather than help it," said Philip Whyte, senior research fellow
at the London-based Centre for European Reform.
"Germany played a big role in that and the benefits of
Germany's euro zone membership weren't highlighted much. This is
starting to change... though it would have helped if this had
happened sooner," he said.