SHARE
COPY LINK

ANGELA MERKEL

‘We’ll miss you’: Merkel gets fond farewell in Rome

German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a warm welcome during her visit to Italy on Thursday in one of her last foreign engagements before she steps down.

'We'll miss you': Merkel gets fond farewell in Rome
Chancellor Angela Merkel is greeted by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the Chigi Palace in Rome. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/LaPresse via ZUMA Press | Roberto Monaldo

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi paid tribute to Merkel as the pair, once hailed as Europe’s power couple, held what is likely to be their last bilateral meeting in Rome.

Merkel, who is bowing out after a historic 16 years in power, also made a private visit to Pope Francis during her visit, where they discussed climate change and the scandal of clerical sex abuse.

She and Draghi worked together closely when he was head of the European Central Bank (ECB) and at a press conference after their talks Thursday, he paid tribute to her “calm, determination and sincere faith in the European Union”.

“She transformed the role of Germany in Europe. We will miss her, but I am sure that we will see her again in Italy – perhaps in more relaxed settings – given her love for our country,” Draghi said.

Merkel responded that he had been “an essential and crucial guardian of the euro”, while also expressing her love for Rome, where she had earlier visited St Peter’s Basilica and was later due to give a speech at the Colosseum.

“Just a day in Rome tells me that you need to live more than a lifetime here to take everything in,” she said, adding: “I’ll definitely come back to Italy, albeit in a different way than before.”

Merkel will stay on as caretaker chancellor while her successors haggle over forming a coalition, a process she said “will definitely be faster than during the last government formation, I’m sure of it.”

READ ALSO: What will Angela Merkel do when she retires – and what will she earn?

Papal audience

Merkel earlier had a private audience with the pope, where they exchanged gifts and discussed the upcoming UN climate talks and the sexual abuse by clergy of children, a problem that has rocked the Catholic Church in Germany, as elsewhere.

“We had important discussions about child abuse,” Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman, told reporters. “I wanted to underline with my visit that we think that the truth must come to light, and the topic must be dealt with.”

She visited the site of a new institute within the Jesuit-run Gregoriana university dedicated to child protection and met with Father Hans Zollner, the Vatican’s leading expert on measures to safeguard minors.

Angela Merkel meets Pope Francis on Thursday in the Vatican.
Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Pope Francis on Thursday in the Vatican. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/VATICAN MEDIA/AP | Vatican Media

EU funds

After the country took a eurosceptic turn under previous governments, Draghi is determined to put Italy back in the heart of the EU.

He praised Merkel for having a “decisive role” in establishing the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, of which Italy is the main beneficiary, saying it was a “tangible sign of European solidarity”.

The German chancellor, for her part, said she had “confidence that Italy will give the money out in a good way”.

There are questions of who will now lead Europe after Merkel’s departure.

“Italy will not take Germany’s place, rather Italy will represent Italy and Germany will be Germany. My successor will also be an important voice for Germany and represent Germany,” she said.

READ ALSO: When exactly will Merkel leave office?

Germany is inching towards a government led by Olaf Scholz after the Greens and the liberal FDPs said Wednesday they would try for a three-party coalition with his Social Democrats while shunning Merkel’s conservatives.

The two kingmaker parties’ decision sends the CDU-CSU bloc closer to the opposition, in a major shift for the country after a decade and a half of Merkel’s centre right-led government.

By Alice RITCHIE, Alvise ARMELLINI

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAVEL

Italy will cut quarantine for vaccinated travellers from US, Canada and Japan, Draghi promises

Italy wants to allow tourists from the United States, Canada and Japan to visit without quarantine if they have been vaccinated, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said.

Italy will cut quarantine for vaccinated travellers from US, Canada and Japan, Draghi promises
Tourists take picture in Rome in summer 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

“Our goal is to reopen Italy for tourism, domestic and international,” Draghi said as he answered questions from parliament on Wednesday evening.

“The pandemic has had vast economic effects on the tourism industry and we’re working to get it going again as soon as possible and in maximum safety.”

While the first step is to vaccinate as many residents of Italy as possible before the summer, Draghi said, he also indicated that Italy would revise its strict rules on entering from overseas. 

READ ALSO: Which countries will Italy reopen to in May?

The government will support quarantine-free travel for vaccinated visitors from “in particular the United States, Japan and Canada”, he promised, without giving details of when Italy would change its entry requirements.

Last weekend Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio suggested that tourists from the US would be allowed to return from June, the month that the European Union has pledged to reopen to vaccinated or tested travellers from outside the bloc.

In recent days government ministers have repeatedly indicated that a change in Italy’s travel rules is imminent without giving a firm date, to the confusion and frustration of people trying to finalise holiday plans. 

READ ALSO: How the Italian government has left tourists angry and confused about summer plans

Leaders of the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the US and the EU – are due to meet from June 11-13th, with travel sure to be on the agenda. An agreement on resuming tourism could follow soon after.

Draghi also pledged to expand “Covid-tested” flights, which allow passengers to skip quarantine if they test negative for coronavirus before departure and on arrival, to “more airlines, more routes and more airports”. 

Currently such flights are only in operation between New York or Atlanta in the US to Rome or Milan.

“We will however maintain all precautions necessary for countries in which Covid and its most dangerous variants are known to be widespread,” Draghi said.

Italy has banned travel from India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka until at least the end of May in response to the highly infectious new variant spreading rapidly in India and neighbouring countries.

READ ALSO: 

Travellers from EU or Schengen countries, as well as the UK or Israel, are allowed to visit Italy but are subject to testing and a five-day quarantine.

Tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea or Thailand are also admitted, but must quarantine for ten days.

Meanwhile travellers from the US, Canada, Japan or any other country outside the EU are only allowed to enter Italy for essential reasons, not including tourism. Those permitted to enter must quarantine for ten days, unless they take a Covid-tested flight.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

SHOW COMMENTS