28 Jun 2019

Germany's Merkel seen shaking again, but heads to G20

6:07 am on 28 June 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been seen shaking for the second time within two weeks, but her spokesman said she was fine as she headed off to Japan for this weekend's G20 summit.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel had another shaking spell in Berlin at a ceremony where President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was presenting the country's new Justice Minister. Photo: AFP

Mrs 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, when the incident occurred.

Standing next to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as he addressed the gathering, Mrs 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 Mr Steinmeier spoke.

Berlin is in the throes of a heatwave.

After the ceremony with Mr Steinmeier, Mrs 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.

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." Mrs Merkel later left on a flight to Osaka for the G20 meeting.

Another government official told Reuters that while Mrs Merkel attributed the tremors on 18 June to drinking too little water and too much coffee on a hot day, Thursday's episode was more a psychological issue as she tried desperately to avoid a repeat.

"The memory of the incident last week led to the situation today - so (it was) a psychologically driven process," the official said. "There is nothing to worry about."

Mrs Merkel was seen shaking when she met visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on 18 June but later said she felt better after drinking some water.

Were Mrs Merkel to be incapacitated, Mr Steinmeier would appoint a cabinet minister as acting chancellor until parliament elects a new chancellor. This need not be Olaf Scholz, a member of the Social Democrats, junior partner in Mrs Merkel's ruling grand coalition.

Work ethic

Mrs Merkel, in power for 14 years, 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.

Mrs 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.

The chancellor faces a gruelling schedule in the coming days.

After the G20, she heads 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 Mrs 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."

Mrs 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, she handed over the chair of her Christian Democratic Union to her protégé Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, though the latter's unconvincing start in the role has set back the CDU's plans for a smooth leadership transition.

When Mrs 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.

- Reuters

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