Berlin: Germany’s Angela Merkel heads into what is expected to be her last EU summit Thursday, with admiration from her fellow leaders after 16 years in power tempered by a sober sizing-up of her achievements.
Characteristically unsentimental, the 66-year-old chancellor, who is retiring from politics this year, outlined a packed agenda for the Brussels meeting in her presumably last major speech to parliament.
It covered fighting the coronavirus pandemic, facing up to “provocations” from Russia and chasing an elusive deal on migration to the bloc — but not a word on her legacy.
Visitors to Berlin in recent weeks have highlighted the impact of the EU’s longest serving leader with her mild manner and cool gravitas, while some quietly lamented a lack of long-term vision.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who served for 14 years in Merkel’s cabinet, said last month Merkel was “infinitely valued” in Europe “because of her great experience”.
“When we’re at loggerheads, she’ll come with an idea and remind us of what’s important and break the impasse. That power to unite — we’ll of course miss that,” she said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte hailed her “enormous authority”, saying she brings “reason and decency to politics”.
“When she starts to speak at the European Council, a lot of people are often still looking at their iPhones,” he said.
“But then they all put their iPhones away. Pens are put down. And we listen to her.” AFP