After 16 years of rule, Angela Merkel says goodbye with Nina Hagen song

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Germany's military on Thursday honoured outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel with their highest ceremony for a civilian, playing an eclectic mix of music of her own choosing that has intrigued the nation.

In a short speech preceding the music, Merkel thanked Germans and called on them to approach life with a "lightness of heart" and be "optimistic" about their country's future.

"Sixteen years as chancellor of Germany were full of events, often very challenging — politically and as a human being," she said.

Multiple crises have shown the importance of international cooperation while tackling the challenges that face the world, she said.

The chancellor added that the "last two years of the pandemic in particular" had shown, "how importance trust in political leaders, science, and public discourse really is."

She also remarked that she would like to encourage people to "continue to see the world through the eyes of others. In other words, to also perceive the sometimes uncomfortable and contradictory perspectives of the other person and to work to balance interest."

East German punk

Followed the "Großer Zapfenstreich" ("Big Tattoo") ceremony, which has its origins in the 16th century and is the highest tribute paid by the German army. The Bundeswehr staff music corps played a hymn, a 1960s song that includes the words "I can't acquiesce, can't make do, I still want to win", and a 1970s punk rock hit.

The hymn, "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name", is a nod to Merkel's Protestant upbringing, the '60s song "Red roses are to rain for me" perhaps reflects her youthful ambition, while the rock hit, "You Forgot The Colour Film", was first performed by East German punk artist Nina Hagen.

Born in the northern port city of Hamburg as the daughter of a Protestant pastor, Merkel grew up in Communist East Germany before taking the helm of a predominantly male, Catholic western German party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

After 16 years in office, she is due to be succeeded as chancellor by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz next week.

Merkel, 67, leaves big shoes to fill. She has navigated Germany and Europe through multiple crises and been a champion of liberal democracy in the face of rising authoritarianism worldwide.

Her critics say she has managed rather than solved problems and leaves her successor tough decisions on many fronts.

(Agencies)

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