Merkel’s second bout of shaking draws attention
German officials dismiss concern about 64-year-old chancellor’s health as she embarks on gruelling schedule
Berlin — German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen shaking as she met President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday, her second such bout within two weeks.
But her spokesman said she was fine and she continued with her duties. Berlin is in the grip of a heat wave.
Merkel, 64, has no history of serious ill health. She was attending a farewell ceremony for justice minister Katarina Barley, who is leaving to become a member of the European Parliament.
As Merkel addressed the gathering, her upper body began to shake, and she crossed her arms as if to brace herself. She was offered a glass of water but declined to drink it while Steinmeier spoke.
On June 18, Merkel was shaking when she met visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. She said later said felt better after drinking water.
Asked if the chancellor would take part in this weekend’s G20 meeting in Japan, the spokesman said: “Everything is taking place as planned. The chancellor is well.”
After the ceremony with Steinmeier, Merkel went on to the Bundestag lower house of parliament for the swearing-in of the new justice minister. She showed no signs of shaking and looked relaxed, chatting and laughing with Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
If Merkel was incapacitated, Steinmeier would appoint a cabinet minister as acting chancellor until parliament elects a new chancellor. This need not be Scholz, a member of the Social Democrats, junior partner in Merkel’s ruling grand coalition.
Merkel is renowned for her work ethic and has a reputation for outlasting other leaders at EU summits with her ability to focus on details of complex discussions deep into the night.
In the past, she has said she is a “sleep camel” who can go days with just a few hours of sleep as long as she gets a full night of shut-eye at the weekend. She is due to go on holiday soon.
Merkel has loomed large on the European stage since 2005, helping guide the EU through the eurozone crisis and opening Germany’s doors to migrants fleeing war in the Middle East in 2015, which still divides the bloc and Germany.
The chancellor faces a gruelling schedule in coming days.
Later on Thursday, she flies to Japan for the G20 meeting before heading to Brussels for an EU summit on Sunday at which she will play a key role in trying to seal a deal on distribution of the bloc’s top jobs for the next five years.
Asked about Merkel’s latest shaking episode, interior minister Horst Seehofer said: “I won’t comment on this. I have never taken part in remote diagnoses because for years I was too often the subject of remote diagnoses.”
Merkel appeared her usual self when she fielded questions from MPs during an hour-long session in parliament on Wednesday, shortly after which she gave a speech at the Humboldt University of Berlin.
Merkel began a stage-managed gradual exit from politics in October, when she said her fourth term as chancellor would be her last and that she would not seek re-election in 2021, when the next federal election is due.
In December, Merkel handed over the chair of her Christian Democratic Union to protege Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, though her unconvincing start in the role has set back the party’s plans for a smooth leadership transition.
When Merkel took 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.