Standing ovations for “compromise machine” Merkel – politics and institutions

Is that it? “Asks German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of her 20-minute press conference at the end of what will probably be her last EU summit.” Yes, “replies her spokesman.” Yes. Then I wish you a nice weekend, “says Merkel and leaves the hall as if it had been a completely normal summit – no different from the 106 before that, in which she has participated since 2005.

Typical Merkel. She made her departure from the European stage as simple as possible. The spectacle is for the others. For example, for EU summit leader Charles Michel. At a farewell ceremony for the longest-serving member of the European Council, he rolls over metaphors to show that Merkel’s importance for Europe cannot be overestimated. “The European Council without Angela is like Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower,” the Belgian told Merkel. “You are a monument.”

Merkel scenes from 16 summit years

At the small celebration, he runs a video with the best Merkel scenes from 16 summit years. As a farewell present, the Chancellor receives a sculpture of the European building, in which the EU summits have been taking place since 2017. But that’s still not all. US President Barack Obama can also video praise Merkel’s “good humor, wise pragmatism and inexorable moral compass”.

At this point in time, however, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel had already found the most appropriate word for what Merkel had achieved for Europe in 16 years: “compromise machine”.

Merkel already demonstrated her talent as a crisis manager at her first summit in December 2005. At that time it was about the EU financial plan for the years 2007 to 2013. Merkel mediated between French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair – with success. The Chancellor was celebrated across all European borders for the agreement. For example, “Der Standard” wrote at the time: “The Union is alive. And Europe is female. It took on a form of hope almost overnight. Her name: Angela Merkel.”

Financial crisis, refugee issues, Brexit

Other, much deeper crises followed, in which Merkel was in demand as a moderator: the global financial crisis from 2007, the euro crisis from 2010, the migration crisis in 2015 and, last but not least, the Brexit and the corona pandemic. When it came to keeping the place together, she was there.

At the end of its term of office, the EU is at a crossroads: Onward to ever more common ground in Europe, as the founding states like Germany and France want. Or back to more national statehood, as the increasingly unscrupulous countries of Poland and Hungary are striving for.

Big construction sites

At her last EU summit – according to official figures number 107 – Merkel was shown once again how deep the rift through the EU is already going. There was no progress in the dispute with Poland over the primacy of EU law over national law. Words like “blackmail” and “witch hunt” were used. The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban even spoke of a “battle” that has only just begun.

Angela Merkel herself said that there would be major construction sites waiting for her successor. She was adopted from the group of EU leaders with standing ovations.