Leo’s address in German breaks the ice in Berlin

Warm welcome for Taoiseach from Angela Merkel

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar inspect a guard of honour before  talks in Berlin. Photograph:  Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar inspect a guard of honour before talks in Berlin. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images

 

Leo Varadkar was welcomed to Berlin on Tuesday with full military honours and a snowy rendition of the Soldier’s Song.

The guest from the west has been in office for nine months but the hostess with the mostest (power in Europe) has been in political limbo since last September and unable to roll out the red carpet.

No one mentioned looted Lidls or whether Angela Merkel thinks Varadkar is at work – on the wind farm front or otherwise

After some speed dating in Brussels, said carpet was unfurled for Varadkar on Tuesday. He braved the freezing day and emerged coatless from his car to be greeted by the – coated – chancellor. As they inspected the guard, with an occasional if gentle steer from his hostess, Varadkar kept his hands folded before him in concentration.

Then the two headed inside for the lift to the dining room.

Sniffer dog

Though it was a low-key visit with a minimal police escort, Varadkar got the full military treatment. A chancellery sniffer dog, on a quick pre-arrival circuit, peed on the Swiss embassy wall in excitement.

No one mentioned looted Lidls or whether Angela Merkel thinks Varadkar is at work – on the wind farm front or otherwise.

Instead they chewed the political fat – Brexit, taxes and trade – over a hearty German spread of beef roulade with creamed savoy cabbage and mash, rounded off with a rhubarb tart.

Merkel, now duly softened up, brushed off pesky questions about whether an Irish shift on tax avoidance would make it easier, politically, for her to back Ireland on Brexit at home

At the subsequent press conference, Varadkar surprised the German leader by opening his remarks in German.

Ich freue mich heute in Berlin zu sein” – I’m delighted to be in Berlin today. Smiles and eyebrows raised in approval from Merkel.

Lavish praise

As he continued to lavish praise on her, in what was almost her native language, Merkel’s smile went from “ah, bless” to utterly inscrutable. Her spokesman, out of shot, casually placed his face behind his hand.

The Taoiseach didn’t shy away from those big German words either, thanking Merkel for understanding the unique Irish concerns over Brexit and the need to protect the Karfreitagabkommen or Good Friday agreement.

Reassured by “the strength and depth of support we have from Germany”, he professed his “wholehearted thanks in the name of the Irish people”.

Merkel, now duly softened up, brushed off pesky questions about whether an Irish shift on tax avoidance would make it easier, politically, for her to back Ireland on Brexit at home.

“Ireland can depend on us with no conditions,” she said.

And with that, beaming broadly, the guest from the west headed for the door.