By Sabine Siebold and Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European leaders paid a warm tribute to Angela Merkel on Friday as they wrapped up a European Union summit, her 107th as Germany’s chancellor for nearly 16 years and probably her last, and one praised her for being “a haven of calm” in the diplomatic vortex of the bloc.
Before getting down to business, the leaders of the 27 EU countries watched a two-minute video featuring highlights of Merkel at the summits and she received a farewell gift representing the Europa building where the summits are held.
In a speech, the president of the Council of Europe and host of the EU summits, Charles Michel, described it as “a monument” and said that meetings of leaders without it will be like Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower.
“You are a compass and a bright light for our European project,” he concluded, earning a standing ovation.
If the German political parties currently talking in the wake of last month’s election fail to assemble a governing coalition by mid-December, Merkel will return to Brussels for another summit.
But several leaders took the opportunity this Friday to say how much they will miss the commander of Europe’s largest economy, and in particular her skill in runner diplomacy, which calmed tempers and generated compromises on thorny issues.
A newcomer to EU summits, Austrian Prime Minister Alexander Schallenberg said it was “a haven of calm” and “without a doubt, a great European”.
(Additional reporting by Johnny Cotton)
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