Angela Merkel Opts to Sit at Ceremony After Third Bout of Shaking

Arne Delfs and Patrick Donahue
Angela Merkel Opts to Sit at Ceremony After Third Bout of Shaking

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel grappled with intensifying scrutiny of her health by opting to sit through a ceremony where she might have trembled again and dodging pointed questions from the press.

In an unprecedented arrangement for a state visit, Merkel and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen remained seated during the playing of both countries’ national anthems at reception outside the chancellery in Berlin on Thursday. Merkel, who will turn 65 next week, normally stands during such events.

Only 24 hours earlier, the German leader suffered a third bout of trembling in just under a month when she met her Finnish counterpart. Despite growing public pressure for her to open the books on the state of her health, she continued to be evasive, sidestepping a reporter’s question regarding physical exams she was reportedly given on Wednesday.

“Let me just say this on the question of health. You can rest assured that I’m, for one, well aware of the responsibilities of my office and that I will act on questions regarding my health,” Merkel said at a joint press conference with Frederiksen.

Asked about turning 65 next week, she said: “You’re not getting any younger -- but perhaps more experienced. Everything has its positive side.” The Danish prime minster said Merkel seemed as strong and competent as ever.

While Merkel may have bought herself some time, she hardly laid the concerns to rest. German media continued to speculate over possible causes of the shaking, which ranged from low sugar levels to early-stage diabetes and neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s.

“Of course Merkel knows that the more serious the reason for her shaking, the more pressure there’d be on her to step down,” Oskar Niedermayer, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin, said after Wednesday’s incident. “Of course that would taint Germany internationally as well.”

Foreign Attention

Indeed, foreign governments are taking notice, mulling to what extent her ailment is weakening her and could impair her ability to carry through on targets and pledges, according to three people in EU capitals.

Before getting a respite from public scrutiny during her summer vacation, she’ll have to navigate several public appearances, including a military parade in Paris this weekend for Bastille Day.

Following the first two bouts of shaking in June, Merkel shuttled to Japan and back for the Group of 20 summit and attended overnight marathon negotiations in Brussels over European Union top jobs.

At today’s ceremony, authorities adopted security measures usually reserved for higher-profile visitors with a heavy police presence and a larger-than-usual area cordoned off from the general public.

(Recasts with press conference, details throughout.)

--With assistance from Iain Rogers.

To contact the reporters on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.net;Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Raymond Colitt, Chris Reiter

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.