"Helmut Kohl decisively influenced the course of my life, too", she said in Italy. His legacy will live on, " he said in a statement.
Kohl was Federal Chancellor from 1982 to 1998, which makes him the longest serving post-war chancellor so far, the highlight of his term being the German reunification, which earned him worldwide prestige.
He was the driving force behind a common European currency, cemented Germany's partnership with France, and would always be remembered for promoting global peace and prosperity, the prime minister said.
The former Christian Democratic Union leader was the longest-serving chancellor of the last century.
British Prime Minister Theresa May called the German politician "a giant of European history".
President Donald Trump says Helmut Kohl was a "friend and ally" to the United States as he led Germany through 16 pivotal years. "The world has benefited from his vision and efforts". He headed the government of Germany for 16 years, from 1982 to 1998.
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Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic Party's challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany's September election, says despite their political differences, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl deserves "respect and recognition" for his accomplishments.
Until his death, Mr Kohl refused to identify the donors, saying he had given them his word.
Tributes poured in from around the world.
Helmut Kohl was forced to leave his post as honorary chairman of the CDU in 2000 after he was accused of using illegal sources to finance the party.
Bush said in a statement: "Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will remain one of the great joys of my life".
Kohl, who had been in poor health and confined to a wheelchair since 2009, died on Friday at the age of 87.
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The main worry for the new government is abstentionism, which hit a historic almost 60-year high in the first round of 51.3 percent.
President Steinmeier said Kohl was an "exceptional politician" with a "strong character".
Merkel also called Kohl "stroke of luck of us German", since Kohl seized the historic chance and overcome difficulties to unify Germany.
Brussels lowered European flags to half mast in order to give tribute to Kohl.
Former Luxembourg's prime minister and European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker mourned the great leader of Germany on Twitter. "My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed".
The fall of the German wall in November 1989 opened a new era in European politics, and as the chasm between West and East Europe melted, European unification also became a possibility.
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