German Chancellor Merkel suffers new trembling spell on eve of G20

June 27, 2019

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session at the Bundestag, the lower house of German parliament in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session at the Bundestag, the lower house of German parliament in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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.

The shaking went on for about two minutes, according to a DPA photographer who was present.

Standing next to Steinmeier as he addressed the gathering, Merkel started shaking visibly in her upper body then crossed her arms as if to brace herself. She was offered a glass of water but declined to drink it while Steinmeier spoke.

Merkel, 64, has no history of serious health issues. She was attending a farewell ceremony for Justice Minister Katarina Barley, who is leaving to become a lawmaker in the European Parliament.

Berlin is in the throes of a heatwave.

On June 18, Merkel was also seen shaking when she met visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy but later said she felt better after drinking some 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.

Were Merkel to be 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.

Work ethic

Merkel is renowned for her work ethic and has a reputation for outlasting other leaders at European Union summits with her ability to focus on the details of complex discussions deep into the night.

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 shut-eye 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 Germany.

The chancellor faces a gruelling schedule in the 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 the distribution of the bloc's top jobs for the next five years.

Asked about Merkel's latest shaking episode, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters: “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 lawmakers 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 (CDU) to her 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 came into office in 2005, George W. Bush was United States president, Jacques Chirac was in the Elysee Palace in Paris and Tony Blair was British prime minister.