Berlin: Angela Merkel of Germany started her last EU summit on Thursday, and other leaders expressed admiration for her after 16 years in power after a sober assessment of her achievements.
The 66-year-old Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is about to retire from politics this year, has always been calm and outlined the agenda of the Brussels meeting in probably the last important speech to Parliament.
It covers fighting the coronavirus pandemic, facing “provocations” from Russia, and seeking an elusive agreement on immigration to the European Union-but it does not mention her legacy.
Tourists in Berlin in recent weeks have emphasized the influence of the EU’s longest-serving leader with gentle demeanor and calm solemnity, while some have quietly lamented the 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.”