Although Angela Merkel could still be the chancellor of Germany the next time European Union leaders meet, her colleagues decided to give her an official send-offon Friday at a summit of bloc leaders in Brussels.
"You are a monument,'' said EU Council President Charles Michel, adding that a summit meeting without her will be like "Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower.''
Michel added: "Your spirit and experience will remain with us. You are not leaving us.''
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel joined in the compliments, saying "Frau Merkel was a compromise machine."
Former US President Barack Obama, who has referred to Merkel as a good friend, sent a video message that was played at the celebration.
"Your beloved people and the entire world owe you a debt of gratitude for taking the high ground for so many years," he said, referring to her as the "center" holding the EU together and praising what he saw as her putting principles ahead of self-interest.
The divisive issue of refugees and migrants was top of the agenda as the 27 European Union leaders met in Brussels for the second day of their summit. Their meeting came amid a surge of migrants and refugees trying to cross the Belarusian border into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
EU leaders have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of flying in illegal migrants to send them across the border, in an effort to destabilize the EU. Germany's federal police said last week that more than 4,300 people had entered the country from Poland after traveling from Belarus since August, compared with just 26 registered from January to July.
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