BERLIN — For the third time in less than a month, Chancellor Angela Merkel had to downplay concerns that health issues could affect her leadership ability at a time that Germany’s economy is slowing and her coalition is wobbling.
Merkel, who turns 65 next week, was seen trembling and biting her lip as she stood alongside Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne during a ceremony in Berlin on Wednesday. At a press conference with Rinne shortly after, a calm and composed Merkel said she was doing fine and still mentally working through what happened during the first episode of shaking on June 18.
“I’ve already said that I need to work through this event and that I’m in this process – and I think that it will go away one day just as it arrived, but it’s not there yet,” she said referring to the first trembling incident that occurred last month during a ceremony on a hot afternoon. “Beyond that, I’m firmly convinced that I’m very well capable.”
Yet there was renewed skepticism over Merkel’s psychosomatic explanation and calls grew stronger for more transparency in regard to her health. “Should the chancellor tell us how she really is doing?,” read a headline on the homepage of Bild, the country’s largest newspaper. Speculation in the German press for possible causes of her ailment ranged from low sugar levels and early stages of diabetes to neurological problems stemming from high stress and exhaustion.
Questions over her well-being arise as Germany’s economy is losing steam and relations within the governing coalition are strained. Last year, Merkel gave up her role as leader of the Christian Democrats and plans to leave politics after her term as chancellor ends with the next national election, slated for 2021. The two leading coalition partners, including the Social Democrats, did poorly in European elections in May, putting further pressure on the coalition.
Still, following the first two bouts of shaking, Merkel shuttled to Japan and back for the Group of 20 summit and attended overnight marathon negotiations in Brussels over European Union top jobs. “I am feeling very well, and there is no reason for concern,” she said on Wednesday.
In the past, she has joked that 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 sleep at the weekend. She is due to go on holiday later in the summer.
Merkel has loomed large on the European stage since 2005, helping guide the EU through the euro zone crisis and opening Germany’s doors to migrants fleeing war in the Middle East in 2015 — a move that still divides the bloc and her country.
With files from Reuters