INTERNATIONAL – “Monument”, “compass for the European project”, “immense politician” … The leaders of the countries of the European Union paid tribute this Friday, October 22 to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a summit in Brussels which should be its 107th and last after 16 years in power.
The Twenty-Seven Summits “without Angela it’s like Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower,” said European Council President Charles Michel. “I hope you will not be upset by this ceremony for your last summit,” he added.
“Your farewell to the European scene touches us politically and fills us with emotion”, continued the former Belgian Prime Minister, saluting “the wisdom” of the Chancellor who will be missed by Europeans “especially in difficult times”. “Thank you, dear Angela,” he wrote on Twitter again.
The speech was greeted with a standing ovation from the heads of state and government gathered since Thursday. A gift, a work in transparency by the young Franco-Dutch designer Maxim Duterre, evoking the Council building which hosts the summits, was given to him, as to his Swedish counterpart Stefan Löfven, also on departure.
For this last summit, where Poland was in the hot seat for its violations of the rule of law, the German was faithful to her line by pleading for dialogue with Warsaw.
“A great void”
Angela Merkel’s departure “will leave a great void, because she is someone who has been in office for so long and who has had such a great influence on the development of the European Union”, declared the new Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg.
“He is someone who for sixteen years really marked Europe, and helped us, all 27, to take the right decisions with a lot of humanity at times which were difficult”, declared the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo. “She was a peacemaker in the EU. She was undoubtedly a great European ”, he insisted.
The Chancellor is “a huge politician, and has been a crucial stabilizing factor in very complicated situations,” added Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, saying “his enormous respect” for her.
“It was such a machine for compromise, that when things weren’t progressing, we still had Angela (…) She usually always found something to unite us and allow us to go further”, observed Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who worked with her for eight years. “I will miss her. She will be missed by Europe, ”he said.
Pragmatism and compromise
The President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, former Minister of Defense of Angela Merkel, had recently underlined to what extent the analytical spirit of this doctor in chemistry had been crucial in unblocking the sometimes interminable European negotiations.
Even the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, paid tribute to the Chancellor. “I want to thank you for your friendship, your leadership, and above all for your loyalty to universal values,” he said in a video posted by Charles Michel on Twitter.
In recent months, EU leaders have multiplied tributes and thanks to the woman who has ruled Germany since 2005, almost as long as Reunification Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1982-1998).
At the head of the continent’s leading economic power, Angela Merkel had been widely criticized for Berlin’s attitude during the eurozone crisis following the global financial collapse of 2008-2009, but was subsequently widely praised for its response to the migration crisis of 2015 and for ultimately rallying to a common debt of the Twenty-Seven.
The Christian Democratic Chancellor (CDU) demonstrated pragmatic management skills which enabled her to forge the compromises necessary to preserve the unity of the EU.
Germany is expected to have a new chancellor before Christmas. Social Democrats, environmentalists and liberals unveiled on Thursday the timetable for their negotiations aimed at installing Olaf Scholz (SPD) in charge of the country in early December.
The withdrawal of Angela Merkel, 67, arouses fear of emptiness within the EU, faced with decisive projects for her survival: post-Covid economic reconstruction, climate change, or even affirmation of her geopolitical role vis-à-vis States United and China.
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