BRUSSELS (AP) — Angela Merkel is still German Chancellor and might be still when EU leaders meet again, yet they gave her a farewell party at Friday's EU summit.
Attending her 107th summit, she was feted by friend and foe alike in an informal ceremony behind closed doors early Friday, where they called her anything from a “compromise machine” to the EU's Eiffel Tower.
Merkel has been the embodiment of the drive for a stronger united Europe for years since she attended her first meeting of EU leaders 16 years ago, at a time when Jacques Chirac was still French president and Tony Blair British prime minister.
“You are a monument,” said EU Council President Charles Michel, adding that a summit meeting without her will be like “Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower.”
Merkel, often using the clout of juggernaut Germany to the fullest, always sought to keep the EU as tightly knit as possible but also defended national interests with equal fervor, especially during the financial crisis which saw her clash often with Greece.
In the end, though, she embodied what the EU summit itself all too often is. “Frau Merkel was a compromise machine,” said Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
So, many will be sad to see her go. “Your spirit and experience will remain with us,” said Michel. “You are not leaving us.”
Michel could still be right. Merkel did not put herself up for re-election in last month's German polls and her CDU/CSU Christian Democrats fared so badly, they will likely end up in opposition.
The Socialist SPD, Greens and free-market FDP announced that they want to get their coalition government in place in the week starting Dec. 6.
Until then, Merkel remains chancellor in a caretaker capacity, and only a few days' delay could well see her come back to Brussels for the mid-December summit.
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