Merkel has attended a staggering 107 EU summits that saw some of the biggest twists in recent European history, including the eurozone debt crisis, an inflow of Syrian refugees, Brexit and the creation of the bloc's landmark pandemic recovery fund.
"You are a monument," the host of the summits, European Council chief Charles Michel, said in the closed-door homage to her, according to an official in the room.
An EU summit "without Angela is like Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel tower," Michel said after Merkel's 26 counterparts gave her a standing ovation.
He handed Merkel what was described as an "artistic impression" of the Europa building, a contemporary glass-topped cube where summits are hosted.
Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel called Merkel a "compromise machine" who "usually did find something to unite us" through marathon intra-EU negotiations.
"Europe will miss her," he said.
"She is someone who for 16 years has really left her mark on Europe, helping all 27 of us to take the right decisions with a lot of humanity at times that were difficult," said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said he hoped Merkel, a "great politician", would remain on the political scene "in one form or another".Over her 16-year reign, Merkel played an influential role in European politics JOHN THYS POOL/AFP
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg called her "undoubtedly a great European" and "a haven of peace, if you like, within the European Union".
Her departure, he said, "will leave a hole".
Her final summit, a two-day affair in Brussels, leaned once again on her soft-power skills to ease a burning row with Poland over its rejection of the EU's legal order -- something many believed could be the next existential threat to the European Union.
On first day on Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended an October 7 ruling by his country's Constitutional Court that said EU law applied only in specific, limited areas and Polish law prevailed in all others.
Merkel, backed by French President Emmanuel Macron, spent her considerable political capital pushing for dialogue with Poland, warning against a "cascade" of legal fights if the issue blew up into challenges before the European Court of Justice.
The message was received by the European Commission and countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium that wanted a more muscular slapdown of Poland, which they accuse of rolling back democratic norms by removing judicial independence in national courts.Merkel in her light jacket stood out from the dark suits of her counterparts in a summit group photo JOHN THYS AFP
East-west feuding has been a recurrent theme in Merkel's long tenure.
Her mediating role reflected both the status of Germany as the EU's economic powerhouse with sway over many of the former Soviet-bloc countries, whose membership to the union tilted the political balance away from Paris and towards Berlin.
It also spoke to Merkel's family background, of German and Polish descent, as well as her tactic of discreet behind-the-scenes nudging while conflicting forces exhausted themselves, before stepping in with a compromise solution.
Migration has been one of the most divisive issues with eastern countries.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was among those who railed against Merkel's unusually bold decision in 2015 to open Germany's borders to more than one million asylum seekers, mostly from war-torn Syria.Merkel's CDU party was handed a drubbing in September elections she did not contest Olivier HOSLET POOL/AFP
Orban -- backed by Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland -- simply ignored an EU directive to share the burden, causing a rift on migration that has yet to heal.
The migration issue was on the table again on the second day of the summit on Friday.
But with the migration-leery positions of the eastern countries already well known, and to an extent backed by Austria and the Netherlands, little substantive discussion was expected, and certainly no breakthrough on burden-sharing.
Germany is still in the process of putting together a government to replace Merkel's, following September elections she did not contest that saw her conservative CDU party handed a drubbing.
© 2021 AFP
Russia has the highest official virus death toll in Europe and on Friday added 1,064 fatalities and 37,141 new infections.
"We're in a worse situation than a whole series of European countries when it comes to vaccinations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"With the sudden rise of more aggressive variants, more people are falling ill. That's the reality," he said.
Officials have warned that the worst is yet to come, with only 35 percent of the population fully vaccinated.
"The problem is the awareness of citizens," said Peskov, who recently admitted he was among Russians not to have been vaccinated, claiming to have high levels of antibodies after contracting the disease last May.
Authorities have repeatedly urged Russians to get vaccinated with one of several homemade jabs that have been available free for months.
Peskov's comments come a day after President Vladimir Putin praised Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, saying people from European countries were flocking to Russia to get the jab instead of vaccines recognised by the European Medicines Agency.
"People from European countries come here, get Sputnik and then go back home and buy a Pfizer vaccine certificate," he said.
Putin this week ordered a nationwide week-long paid holiday starting October 30 to curb infections and Moscow next week will shut non-essential services for 11 days.
The fatalities on Friday brought Russia's official death toll from the disease to 228,453.
But figures published by statistics agency Rosstat in October paint a far darker picture, suggesting more than 400,000 people have died from the coronavirus.
© 2021 AFP
'Makes me want to throw up': Trump 'Truth' network investor is out now that he knows it's a 'fake news business'
The launch of Donald Trump's new social media company "TRUTH" has hit another bump in the road as some early key investors are pulling out after discovering he is one of the principals behind it which they were unaware of at the time they put money into the start-up.
As the New York Times reported, "The details of Mr. Trump's latest partnership were vague. The statement he issued was reminiscent of the kind of claims he made about his business dealings in New York as a real estate developer. It was replete with high-dollar amounts and superlatives that could not be verified."
According to a report from the Huff Post's Ed Mazza, one hedge fund manager lashed out when he found out about Trump's involvement.
As Mazza reports, "[Boaz] Weinstein's Saba Capital had been a major investor in Digital World, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) formed for the purpose of acquiring another company. As is common in SPAC arrangements, investors put their cash in before the acquisition target was chosen. When Weinstein learned it would be with Trump's firm, he bailed."
"I knew that for Saba the right thing was to sell our entire stake of unrestricted shares, which we have now done. Many investors are grappling with hard questions about how to incorporate their values into their work. For us, this was not a close call," he explained.
Another unnamed investor, who reportedly held a 10 percent stake in the company, was considerably more graphic when talking about being taken in by Trump's latest venture and he "sold everything as soon as he could," reports Mazza.
"The idea that I would help [Trump] build out a fake news business called Truth makes me want to throw up," they said.
You can read more here.
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