German chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted she is not suffering any serious health problems after a third shaking spell in three weeks in Berlin.
During military honours on Wednesday at the chancellery for Finland’s new prime minister, Antti Rinne, Dr Merkel began trembling as a military band played the Finnish national anthem.
The shakes dissipated as soon as she began walking to inspect the guard with her guest, but the image recalled a near-identical scene on June 18th with the new Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Dr Merkel attributed that first shaking spell to summer heat and dehydration but, a week later, she was seen shaking again indoors at a formal ceremony in Bellevue Palace.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the 64-year-old leader said: “I’m doing fine.”
She insisted she was in a phase of “coming to terms with” the first shaking spell; aides say the memory of that – in full public view – has triggered repeat episodes.
“I have been making progress and I have to live a while with this,” she said. “But I’m doing fine and no one should be worried.”
Challenged by a journalist over why she was not making her health situation public, she added: “I think I did that with my remarks today . . . I think that, as this has come, it will also go, but we’re not that far yet.”
After a brief pause, she added: “And otherwise I am firmly of the belief that I am well able to work.”
The mysterious shaking has created a dilemma for the German media . Culturally, Germans have considerable respect for the private life of public figures – and Dr Merkel has kept her private life private despite nearly three decades in the public eye, including 14 as chancellor.
Media coverage of the first episode was restrained but after the second episode, the Bild tabloid broke a taboo by asking openly: “How sick is the chancellor?”
On Wednesday, other news organisations began to question the line emerging from the chancellery after Bild asked: “Does the chancellor have to tell us how she really is?”
A federal government spokeswoman declined to comment more on the German leader’s health, insisting: “The chancellor is fine, I repeat, the chancellor is fine.”
Doctors quizzed by media outlets have been unable to provide a consistent, remote diagnosis. Some have suggested the physical tremors are simply a sign of fatigue. Last December she stood down as leader of her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but vowed to stay on as chancellor, health allowing, to finish her fourth term in 2021.
German chancellors have a long tradition of keeping health complaints to themselves. Konrad Adenauer, the first West German chancellor, explained away lung infections as colds. 1970s chancellor Willy Brandt hid his depression from the public while his successor Helmut Schmidt kept his fainting spells to himself.
Dr Merkel’s mentor, Helmut Kohl, concealed prostate trouble and knee operations as more minor complaints.
Dr Merkel turns 65 next week and, two weeks after that, hits another milestone: 5,000 days in office.