Breaking News Email
Receive urgent alerts and special reports. The news and stories that count, delivered on weekday mornings.
By Andy Eckardt and Carlo Angerer
HAMBURG, Germany – The final speech of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as leader of his party was greeted with an 11-minute standing ovation on Friday.
The address marked the beginning of its gradual exit from German politics and the world scene. Merkel has led the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000 and has been the country's chancellor since 2005.
"Now is the time to open a new chapter, it was a great pleasure for me, it was an honor," Merkel said while she was finishing her speech. The delegates re-read signs: "Thank you, boss."
Merkel, 64, will hand over the baton to a successor at the party congress in Hamburg, the following Friday.
Three main candidates to replace it have visited Germany and spoken to members of the party in eight regional conferences in recent weeks. The discussions were generally friendly and democratic compared to the Republican or Democratic primary debates in the United States
The leaders of the German parties, including Merkel, were traditionally selected through behind-the-scenes agreements and did not face any competition during the voting confirmation to party conventions.
But for the first time since 1971, CDU delegates have received the opportunity to elect the new party leader among several candidates.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is widely regarded as Merkel's favorite to replace her, with both politicians representing the party's most moderate wing.
The other two candidates openly criticized some of the chancellor's policies in the past.
Jens Spahn, the thirty-one-year-old German health minister, has repeatedly spoken out against Merkel's opening. a migration policy that has led to the arrival of almost a million refugees
And Friedrich Merz, a former parliamentarian who left politics to work as a corporate lawyer, presented himself as the candidate who could bring voters back from the far-right populist AfD.
Among the growing anti-foreign sentiment in Germany, the anti-immigration and anti-EU AfD won 13% of the vote in the German state of Hesse in October.
"Times today are difficult for our country, for our party, with AfD on the right and a polarization of society," Merkel warned in her speech
La Merkel also had a message for President Donald Trump, stating that his party had to show its strengths in an era of "growing renunciation of multilateralism" and in times of "reducing international cooperation to the principles of decision-making". "
Judith Hoerning, a 23-year-old delegate, told NBC News that while Merkel had" shaped the party in a positive way ", she believed that her decision to resign was" courageous and just because now the party needs of transformation. "
Germany's neighbors are already worried that the departure of Europe's long-lived leader may weaken the European Union
" There's still huge respect for Merkel because she gave Stability in Europe at a time when things were darker, "said Judy Dempsey, an elderly non-resident of the think tank Carnegie Europe.