She has been referred to as the Queen of Europe – and many unfortunate EU politicians have been on the receiving end of stern words from Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
But as well as commanding respect across Europe, Ms Merkel also inspires affection, and is warmly referred to as “Mutti” at home. It was that softer side on show in Brussels in the early hours of yesterday, when she found herself ringing in the first hour of her 60th birthday – not with friends and family but with 27 European heads of state over a fractious dinner summit. While there was debate about who should be the next EU foreign policy chief, there were flowers and champagne for the most influential politician in the room. The leaders also signed a German football shirt and presented it to Mrs Merkel, whose popularity at home soared higher after the team’s World Cup triumph.
The celebrations continued into a press conference, when a German journalist serenaded a bemused-looking Chancellor with a shaky “Happy Birthday”. “I should have joined in. It would have been better,” she joked. Then it was back to business, with a flight home for an event at her party HQ in Berlin, with festivities resuming at a dinner of northern German fare, with plenty of the nation’s beers.