European leaders paid tribute to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday at a summit in Brussels that is expected to be the last after 16 years in power.
The summit is Merkel’s 107th as German chancellor. Merkel is currently running her country in an interim capacity, as coalition talks are ongoing after federal parliamentary elections last month.
EU Council President Charles Michel marked the occasion with an elegant video posted on social media with images of Merkel’s attendance at past summits, highlighting her longevity at the helm of an EU, as can be seen with four presidents. successive French.
In a speech, he said that the EU-27 summits “without Angela are like Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower.”
“His farewell to the European scene moves us politically and fills us with emotion,” he added, praising the “wisdom” of the chancellor who, he said, will be missed by Europeans “especially in delicate times.”
The speech was received with a standing ovation by the Heads of State and Government meeting since Thursday. He was presented with a gift, a transparent work of art by the young French-Dutch designer Maxim Duterre, which evokes the City Hall building that hosts the summits, as well as his Swedish counterpart Stefan Löfven, who is also leaving.
Austria’s new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said his departure “will leave a great void”, underlining his “great influence on the evolution of the European Union.”
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said that Merkel “is someone who for 16 years has really made her mark on Europe, and she helped us make the right decisions with a lot of humanity in times that were difficult.”
“She was a peacemaker in the EU. She was certainly a great European,” he insisted.
Her Luxembourg counterpart, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who worked with her for eight years, agreed. “It was a machine of commitments that when things were not going well, we still had Angela (…) She always found something that united us and allowed us to go further.”
“I will miss her. Europe will miss her,” he said.
A tribute also arrived from across the Atlantic with former US President Barack Obama thanking him “on behalf of the American people” for his “friendship and leadership.”
“Your beloved German people and the entire world owe you a debt of gratitude for your vision for so many years,” he added.
As head of the continent’s largest economy, Angela Merkel was widely criticized for Berlin’s attitude during the eurozone crisis following the 2008-2009 global financial collapse, but was later widely praised for her response to the 2015 migration crisis. and for, ultimately, joining a common policy. Debt of the EU-27.
Germany is expected to have a new chancellor before Christmas. The Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals released on Thursday the schedule of their negotiations to install Olaf Scholz (SPD) as head of the country in early December.
The withdrawal of 67-year-old Angela Merkel has sparked fears of a void in the EU, which faces decisive challenges for its survival: post-Covid economic reconstruction, climate change and the assertion of its geopolitical role vis-à-vis states. The United States and the United States. Porcelain.