S.Instead of a laudation, there was a presentation in the monastery church of Yuste with pictures from Angela Merkel’s long political career. In addition, the voice of the Chancellor rang out from the off with her famous three words “We can do it”. During her farewell visit to Spain, she met King Felipe VI. Awarded the “Charles V” European Prize on Thursday – not in the royal palace in Madrid, but in the secluded Hieronymites monastery in Extremadura, to which the emperor had retired to die there in 1558.
In front of the medieval building, a school class received the Chancellor with “Angela, Angela” shouts. In front of the main altar, the Spanish monarch paid tribute to the outgoing Chancellor as a politician who, like few others, “embodies the spirit of Europe”. You have tried in Europe for “far-reaching changes and constructive solutions”. Angela Merkel used her acceptance speech for a warning call for more European unity. “Europe is only as strong as it is united,” she said.
Good cooperation with Sánchez
As a peace community, the EU is a unique success story. But peace and freedom are anything but self-evident and must be protected and defended. She warned of the “centrifugal forces” in the EU that would appear “when the cement of common values becomes fragile”.
In her speech, Merkel mentioned the good cooperation with the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who had also come to Yuste. The Chancellor has faced three heads of government and two kings in Spain over the past 16 years. The Socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was followed by the Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the People’s Party. For her he was a loyal partner with whom she went hiking on the Camino de Santiago.
She and her husband spent a weekend in the Doñana National Park on the Atlantic coast with Rajoy’s socialist successor, Pedro Sánchez, and his family. Unlike his conservative predecessor Rajoy, the socialist Sánchez has been more active in foreign and European policy since 2018. In doing so, he sought to close ranks with Germany: in the common migration policy and in dealing with the consequences of the pandemic. After their outbreak, Sánchez was one of the driving forces behind the EU’s Covid Recovery Fund, which is being financed for the first time through joint borrowing.
Stability and pragmatism
Angela Merkel soon supported the plan. Many Spaniards feel sad about the end of their term in office. For them, the German Chancellor embodies the stability, constancy and pragmatism that they miss in the turbulent politics of their country. That was shown by a survey by the opinion research institute “Yougov” in seven countries this summer: Most frequently, 78 percent of the Spaniards surveyed expressed a positive opinion of the German Chancellor. That the CDU politician had a positive influence on Germany’s reputation abroad is what the Spaniards think again most often with 79 percent.
The roots of trust go back to the 1980s. Helmut Kohl had campaigned for Spain to join what was then the EC, the socialist Prime Minister Felipe González for German reunification. Despite their different political origins, both were not only allies but also friends. In 2006 González gave the laudation in Yuste for Helmut Kohl when the former Chancellor received the “Karl V.” Prize. On Thursday, Felipe González sat in the monastery next to Javier Solana, who is also one of the prize winners, as well as Jacques Delors and Mikhail Gorbachev.
The European Prize “Charles V” has now been awarded for the fourteenth time by the European and Ibero-American Academy of the Yuste Foundation, which was founded in 1992. Similar to the city of Aachen with its Charlemagne Prize, deserving Europeans are honored – Merkel as “an unshakable advocate of the European integration process and the important strategic role of Europe”. Emperor Charles V had spent his last days in his retirement home at the monastery. After her trip to Israel, Angela Merkel made her way to Brussels this Friday, where the Belgian king expected her to have lunch at the beginning.