BERLIN (Reuters) - Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a driving force behind European integration, urged politicians campaigning in this month's European elections to help citizens develop an emotional tie to Europe, still a project about peace and freedom.
The veteran 84-year old conservative who was also the architect of German reunification, told Bild newspaper that the people of Europe should mobilize and cast a vote in the May 25 election for the European parliament.
"Europe remains a question of war and peace and everything that belongs to it. Alongside peace, there is also freedom, prosperity and democracy," said Kohl, who was chancellor between 1982-1998 and acted as an early mentor to the current incumbent Angela Merkel.
Some of Europe's mainstream parties, fearing growing support for populist and eurosceptic parties in the election, have tried to appeal to the values which drove the idea of a European partnership after the devastation of World War Two.
Asked what the top priority should be for the new European Commissioner, whose selection will depend on the outcome of the vote, Kohl said: "He must make Europe a matter of the heart for all Europeans."
Kohl, who is frail and usually appears in a wheelchair, said he was very worried about the situation in Ukraine and that diplomatic efforts to find a solution must continue.
"Above all we must start talking to each other again. My life experience tells me that this is possible. We just have to want it," said Kohl, who dealt with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as Communism in eastern Europe collapsed.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Brown)