BERLIN: European leaders paid glowing tribute to Germany’s Angela Merkel as she heads into what is predicted to be her final EU summit on Thursday.
Characteristically unsentimental, the 66-year-old chancellor, who’s retiring from politics this yr, outlined a packed agenda for the Brussels assembly in her presumably final main speech to parliament.
It lined preventing the coronavirus pandemic, dealing with as much as “provocations” from Russia and chasing an elusive deal on migration to the bloc — however not a phrase on her legacy.
Guests to Berlin in current weeks have highlighted the impression of the EU’s longest serving chief together with her delicate method and funky gravitas, whereas some quietly lamented a scarcity of long-term imaginative and prescient.
EU Fee chief Ursula von der Leyen, who served for 14 years in Merkel’s cupboard, stated final month Merkel was “infinitely valued” in Europe “due to her nice expertise”.
“After we’re at loggerheads, she’ll include an concept and remind us of what is essential and break the deadlock. That energy to unite — we’ll after all miss that,” she stated.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte hailed her “huge authority”, saying she brings “purpose and decency to politics”.
“When she begins to talk on the European Council, lots of people are sometimes nonetheless their iPhones,” he stated.
“However then all of them put their iPhones away. Pens are put down. And we hearken to her.”
Break for chips
On Thursday, even the co-chief of the opposition Greens, Annalena Baerbock paid homage to her management.
“Many individuals on this nation are grateful that you simply within the final 16 years held Europe collectively in disaster conditions,” stated Baerbock, one of many candidates to switch her after September’s basic election.
Merkel’s endurance in marathon negotiations turned a trademark, and she or he as soon as famously described her “camel-like” capacity to retailer sleep.
Brussels turned like a second dwelling over time.
As one other infinite summit dragged into the wee hours in 2016, she popped out to one of many metropolis’s beloved snack retailers, Maison Antoine, for a bag of chips with Andalusian sauce — a spicy mayonnaise with pepper and tomato.
She paid her personal invoice.
Two years later, she took half in an impromptu “beer summit” with the leaders of France, Belgium and Luxembourg round a convivial desk on Brussels’ Grand-Place.
Nevertheless it wasn’t all the time bonhomie together with her fellow leaders, with the 2010-12 euro disaster specifically leaving lasting scars.
Merkel lengthy maintained a strict line with debt-mired nations together with Greece because it hurtled towards crashing out of the eurozone.
Her austerity insurance policies inflicted struggling on already beleaguered populations, with some leaders arguing that treatment was extra painful than the illness.
Critics say compromises brokered to maintain nations within the forex zone failed to deal with its enduring weaknesses.
Her 2015 refusal to slam the door on folks fleeing struggle and distress introduced 1.2 million asylum seekers to Germany and drove a wedge between ardent supporters and livid opponents.
Nonetheless unresolved migration insurance policies within the bloc have fuelled far-right events and bolstered populist leaders.
Merkel’s ambivalent stance on Russia additionally often alienated companions, notably in japanese Europe who worry the almost accomplished Nord Stream 2 gasoline pipeline will embolden Moscow at their expense.
In parliament, Merkel threw her weight behind direct EU talks with President Vladimir Putin whereas urging “a united entrance towards the provocations”.
The proposal instantly drew a nervous response from Ukraine, with Overseas Minister Dmytro Kuleba blasting it as “harmful”.
Merkel, who brokered a rapidly accomplished EU-China funding pact below the German presidency of the bloc in 2020, has additionally confronted accusations of inserting business pursuits over long-term strategic goals.
Constanze Stelzenmueller of the Brookings Establishment stated a scarcity of coverage coherence coupled with Germany’s “woefully underfunded” defence capabilities threatened European stability.
“Like Merkel’s dithering over standing as much as Moscow and Beijing, German navy weak point has undercut the safety of Europe and NATO,” she wrote final month.
German information weekly Der Spiegel stated in a withering on-line editorial Thursday that “the EU is in worse form right this moment than in the beginning of her chancellorship in 2005”.
It stated the fiscal gulf between north and south, Brexit, the rise of “intolerant democracies” corresponding to Poland and Hungary and the failure to forge a “humane plan” for the EU’s exterior borders would stain her file.
“It isn’t all Merkel’s fault. However as a result of she led Europe’s largest nation and high financial energy for 16 years, one cannot say the EU´s unhealthy situation has nothing to do together with her.”