By Tobias Schlie and Andreas Rinke
BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen shaking as she met Finland’s visiting prime minister on Wednesday – her third bout within the last month, Reuters Television footage showed, but a government spokesman said she was fine.
Merkel shook back and forth as she stood outside and looked uncomfortable as she watched a military ceremony marking Antti Rinne’s arrival.
Merkel’s office has given no explanation for her shaking episodes, prompting German media speculation about the cause. The chancellor, 64, has no history of serious health issues.
“The chancellor is fine and the talks with the Finnish prime minister are going on as planned,” a government spokesman said.
After the first shaking episode, when she met visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on June 18, Merkel said she felt better after drinking some water.
She was also seen shaking on June 27 when she met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier but her spokesman said she was fine and she later went ahead with her planned trip to Japan for a G20 summit. A government official told Reuters that was more a psychological issue as she tried desperately to avoid a repeat.
After her Japan trip, Merkel went straight into three days of tortuous talks in Brussels to decide on a new group of nominees for top European Union jobs – a package that has strained her coalition government.
In power for 14 years, Merkel is renowned for her work ethic and has a reputation for outlasting other leaders at EU summits with her ability to focus on the details of complex discussions deep into the night.
In November 2016, when announcing that she would seek a fourth term as chancellor, Merkel said: “It is a decision not just for an election campaign but about the next four years … if health allows it.”
Were Merkel to be incapacitated, Steinmeier would appoint a cabinet minister as acting chancellor until parliament elects a new chancellor. This need not be Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a member of the Social Democrats – junior partner in Merkel’s ruling grand coalition.
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.
(Writing by Michelle Martin and Paul Carrel; Editing by Andrew Heavens)