BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) – Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union faced “a whole host of unresolved issues” at what was likely its last summit, adopting a somber tone that contrasted with a festive departure from the leaders of the bloc.
“I am leaving the European Union in my role as Chancellor in a situation where there is a lot of cause for concern,” Merkel told reporters in Brussels on Friday (October 22) after the two-day meeting.
The outgoing German leader cited a struggle with Poland over its respect for the rule of law, the failure of EU leaders to reach a comprehensive approach to migration and the region’s competitiveness with China, as problems which will make the EU “vulnerable” abroad.
A few hours earlier, former President Barack Obama had paid a video tribute to Merkel, European Council President Charles Michel calling her a “monument”.
Future summits will be like “Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower,” he said, according to an official report at the meeting.
The Chancellor, the bloc’s longest-serving leader, recorded her 107th meeting of the European Council since taking office in November 2005.
With German Social Democrat Olaf Scholz aiming to conclude coalition talks and take over from Merkel in early December, Merkel’s two-day visit to the Belgian capital is likely her last to conduct official business.
Obama – whose appearance was the subject of intense negotiations behind the scenes, according to an EU official – was also enthusiastic.
“Thanks to you, the center has weathered many storms,” ââhe said.
The 44th American president said he was “happy to be your friend”.
A video presentation for the assembled leaders included clips from Merkel’s first visit to the Council in December 2005, hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and receiving a kiss from the hand of Frenchman Jacques Chirac.
Usually reluctant to such public praise, Merkel was eager to move on to the ongoing issues – a wide-ranging discussion about migration and protecting the bloc’s external border with Belarus.
“Merkel was uncomfortable with all the praise she received; she prefers to talk about the content rather than herself,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after the meeting.
Merkel ignored one final question about how she found a gift from the council – a replica of the egg-shaped building where the council meets, which many have observed resembles her diamond-shaped hand gesture. Instead, she got up and left.
“That was the last question,” said spokesperson Steffen Seibert.