Chirac gets beer mug as EU going away present

26th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, March 25, 2007 (AFP) - What to get the French president who has everything and is attending his last EU summit? German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided the answer was an antique beer stein.

BERLIN, March 25, 2007 (AFP) - What to get the French president who has everything and is attending his last EU summit? German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided the answer was an antique beer stein.

At festivities for the 50th anniversary of the European Union Sunday, the diminutive German chancellor presented the towering French president with a rare 18th century mug during a luncheon for the 27 EU leaders.

"We gave him a beer mug to add to his collection," a beaming Merkel told reporters after hosting a summit on the 50th anniversary of the EU's founding Treaty of Rome.

"It's a piece of history," she said, noting that it dated from a time when "Napoleon was fighting in Egypt."

"He has left his mark on Europe in a very positive sense," she said. "There was a very generous round of applause for him" from the other EU leaders.

The 74-year-old head of state, who has been active in French politics for more than 40 years, ruled out seeking a third term as president this month ahead of elections in April and May.

Chirac congratulated Merkel for hosting the European birthday party in Berlin, which included cultural events over the weekend throughout the capital and the signing of a declaration on the bloc's principles and goals.

"The chancellor only said nice things about me, which I will not repeat here," Chirac told reporters.

He also thanked her for her presidency of the EU, which runs to June 30, saying the union could not move forward without Franco-German cooperation.

"No progress in Europe is possible if there is not agreement between France and Germany," Chirac said, calling the city of Berlin a "symbol of Franco-German reconciliation".

"If there is Franco-German agreement, things move forward, more or less quickly, but if you do not, you have gridlock."

Chirac said he was not emotional about his farewell EU summit.

"You ask me if it tugged on my heart strings. My heart is not sensitive, in any case not from this point of view," he said, with his wife Bernadette at his side.

"Things are as they are. I had decided that this would be my last (EU) council and I was very happy to see my colleagues one last time, officially as a member of the council," he went on.

"They warmly welcomed me and shook my hand in a friendly way as I left," the French head of state said. "I had a nice time here."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern also paid tribute to Chirac, describing him as a "very good friend."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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