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German Chancellor Angela Merkel Brushes Off Health Concerns, Says She Is Fine


The health of Chancellor Angela Merkel has become an issue in Germany after she appeared to suffer uncontrolled shaking at three public events in as many weeks. Merkel has brushed off concerns, saying she's fine and has continued her famously grueling schedule. But the German media's questioning is now more insistent, as NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Berlin.


DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: As the German national anthem played in a public ceremony today, Angela Merkel sat on a white upholstered chair on a red carpet. This was new for the long-serving chancellor; she would normally stand. A last-minute change in protocol fueled even more media speculation about her three bouts of trembling. Merkel has cited dehydration, an attack of nerves, and today, just before her 65th birthday, she cited age.


CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Foreign language spoken).

AMOS: But she insisted again that she was fine; it's just something she'll have to live with for some time. Does Angela Merkel have a health problem? Nobody knows. She said on Wednesday, my comments on this are done, and I think my statement that I am fine can find acceptance. In Germany, the health of public figures is generally considered a private matter, and the privacy laws are strict. But this time is different. Critics have been tweeting that the health of the leader of the government is not a private matter.

We don't have the American system here, says Mohamed Amjahid, the political editor of Die Zeit newspaper, where politicians are expected to reveal health issues.

MOHAMED AMJAHID: Compared to you guys in the U.S., you are like open books. I think it's a new thing with the politicians in Germany to say, I need to be transparent, and talk openly about their health situation.

AMOS: He says the German media has been filled with speculation, citing medical experts who opine about the chancellor shaking. She's been in office since 2005. Merkel is known to keep an exhausting schedule, and she said publicly that she doesn't sleep much. Last year, she said that she won't seek a fifth term as chancellor, and she won't seek another political role after her term ends in 2021. Still, there is endless conversation in the media and on the streets about her longevity in office. It's mostly sympathetic, says Amjahid. For the German public, he says, health matters are private, even for the country's leader.

AMJAHID: There is a lot of criticism. Why are you showing all that footage of her shaking? This is disrespectful. And why would you do that?

AMOS: Merkel's decision to sit for the national anthem, getting through the ceremony without a tremor, was noted, and the health watch is intense. But August is near, the time of vacations for Germans, including the chancellor. It's time for rest and recharging for Angela Merkel and for the German media.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.