Just spotted the announcement of the death of the outstanding former German (West German) Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, today while travelling. Helmut Schmidt was (the Social Democrat) Chancellor of what was then West Germany between 1974 and 1982, and was an exceptionally intellectually gifted, exceedingly brave (morally and physically - having been drafted into the German Armed Forces he ended the war as a highly decorated - he was awarded the Iron Cross - first lieutenant commanding an anti-aircraft artillery battery) decent, firm, individual, and one who was possessed of an integrity and intelligence which made him an extraordinarily impressive political leader of what was then West Germany from the mid 1960s onwards. Political leaders - indeed statesmen - such as Helmut Schmidt were the generation that began the gradual political rehabilitation of the postwar West German state in to the European (and world) political order. They did this by embracing and embedding democratic ideals, values and processes in the very fabric of the state, and by facilitating the evolution of an exceptionally close and friendly relationship with France, - unheard of for most of the previous century - without which Europe would not have - indeed, could not have enjoyed an era of postwar economic growth and political stability, and without which the EU could not have come to reach its potential and play the role envisaged for it. Unfortunately, Helmut Schmidt's tragedy was that he was never Chancellor in the really good times - instead, Helmut Kohl, his Christian Democrat rival, and successor as Chancellor, less gifted perhaps, but preternaturally lucky, in the Napoleonic sense, - reaped the benefit of that. However, Helmut Schmidt was probably the first real person that the postwar German state produced who could have been said to have been both a world class politician and a solid and reliable statesman and his intelligence, stature, judgement, administrative abilities, generous vision, and courage undoubtedly came to enhance the reputation of Germany itself. His death, at the age of 96 (and he was lucid, sharply intelligent and insightful, as always - giving interviews, and writing thoughtful pieces - until quite recently) was announced today. RIP.