Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini excoriated German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, accusing them of having "ruined" Europe - after Merkel said he wasn't welcome in her center-right European party.
Angela Merkel has called on Europe to forge a united front capable of standing up to the US, China and Russian Federation in her first explicit admission of the growing tensions with President Trump.
At a news conference later Thursday, Merkel said what she meant is that "it is right for me as German chancellor to strengthen, rather than not, my efforts to ensure a good, functioning Europe in view of the situations we have and in view of the polarisation".
She said she had an "even greater feeling of responsibility to take care, together with others, of the fate of this Europe".
Her impassioned plea for Europe comes ahead of the European Union parliamentary elections, which take place across the bloc from May 23 to 26.
In her two-step plan to leave politics, Merkel previous year gave up the leadership of the Christian Democratic Union party, before stepping down as chancellor when her mandate runs out in 2021.
Earlier this week, Merkel said politicians should not hang on in office "until nobody wants to see you anymore".
When Merkel came into office in 2005, George W. Bush was US president, Jacques Chirac was in the Elysee Palace in Paris and Tony Blair was British prime minister.