‘You are a monument’: European leaders greet Angela Merkel at ‘final’ summit | European Union
After nearly 16 years and 107 European summits, Angela Merkel, the outgoing German Chancellor, could have expected more from her fellow leaders than a glass paperweight and praise for being a “monument”.
But at what was to be Merkel’s last meeting in Brussels, addressing issues ranging from energy prices to Poland’s laissez-faire attitude to EU law, former US President Barack Obama at least offered some glamor to the debates in a surprise appearance during a video farewell.
“Thanks to you, the center has weathered many storms,” Obama said in the video shown in the top room of the egg-shaped Europa building in Brussels. “So many people, girls and boys, men and women, had a role model they could look up to in times of trouble. I know because I am one of them. Danke schto.“
Despite her well-known disapproval of the fuss, Merkel received a standing ovation at the end of the two-day meeting from her peers. She was also presented with a reproduction of glass paperweights from the Europa building in which she spent so many late nights and early mornings.
When Merkel attended her first EU summit in December 2005, her fellow leaders included Tony Blair. Earlier this week, Merkel, the EU’s troubleshooter, spoke of her deep wound over Brexit.
At a post-summit press conference on Friday, she warned her peers that the bloc, recently shaken by the Polish government’s claim to be treated like a province over negative decisions regarding changes to its justice system, had to grapple with a fundamental question.
“There is the question of the independence of the judiciary, but also the underlying [the question] … in which direction is the European Union heading, what should be a European competence and what should nation states tackle? ” she said. “If you look at the history of Poland, it is very understandable that the question of defining their national identity plays a big role … which is a different historical situation from that in which the countries which have had democracy find themselves. since World War II. “
The comments reflected Merkel’s role throughout her tenure as a compromise seeker.
In a speech to her and the 26 other EU heads of state and government, European Council President Charles Michel presented his own idiosyncratic thoughts.
“Your style is your composure,” he said. “You are a monument. EU summits, declared Michel, “without Angela, it’s like Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower”.
The former Belgian prime minister is full of praise for his “extreme sobriety and simplicity”. He added: “It is a very powerful weapon of seduction.”
“I remember our first meeting,” says Michel. “You were just very interested to hear me explain the details of our coalition agreement and the complexity of the Belgian institutions.
Merkel’s appearance at the top was also marked by a special “family photo” of the assembled heads of state and government. However, it will only be his last if the discussions on the composition of the next German government bear fruit before the next meeting scheduled for December 16.