TEHRAN-The Chancellor of Germany suffers from physical problems. Under such circumstances, the European Union and the euro area appear to be facing a more serious crisis of leadership.
By Saeed Sobhani
The EU and the euro area are now faced with economic, security, political and social crises. On the other hand, the EU now does not see a strong leader at the head of its political and executive equations: the French president is in the worst possible situation and has failed in the European parliamentary elections. England is on the brink of leaving the European Union, and Angela Merkel is not well placed!Here are some analyzes and news on Angela Merkel:
Merkel’s health is a private matter, Germans say after shaking bouts
Most Germans believe Angela Merkel’s health is a private matter, a poll showed on Saturday, after the chancellor suffered the latest in a series of shaking episodes this week that have raised questions about whether she should give an explanation.Merkel, who turns 65 next week, shook visibly at a welcoming ceremony for Finland’s prime minister on Wednesday – the third such episode in as many weeks. On Thursday, she broke with protocol and sat at a similar welcome for Denmark’s premier.The episodes have concerned many Germans and fired up a debate among some of the chancellor’s Christian Democrats about whether she should pass power to her protege sooner than a planned handover in 2021.
Yet the survey of 4,495 representative voters, which pollster Civey conducted on Thursday and Friday for the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, showed a majority – 59% – believed Merkel’s health was her own business.The voters were asked: “In your view, should Angela Merkel provide detailed public information about her state of health, or is this her private concern?” Just 34% favoured her health details being published, with 7% undecided.The chancellor, who has no history of serious health issues, insisted “I am fine” on
Wednesday, after trembling at the ceremony to receive Finland’s premier, and said she was “working through” a bout of tremors that first occurred in mid-June.But she has declined to give any details about her health.
Merkel is famously private, only rarely making public appearances with her husband. This is in stark contrast to her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder – who faced questions in office about his marriage and whether he dyed his hair.Merkel has led Germany since 2005, making her the longest-serving political leader of a major Western democracy. Now serving her fourth term in office, she does not plan to stand again at the next federal election, due in 2021.Merkel decided to seek a fourth term only after long reflection, and said in November 2016 she was seeking to stay on”if health allows”. In 1998, she was quoted as saying: “I don’t want to be a half-dead wreck when I leave politics.”
Leading the European Union’s largest economy, 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 the United States, portions of the results of the president’s annual medical examination are traditionally made public, but in
Germany, political leaders are generally expected to enjoy more privacy around their health.
Merkel’s Health Intensifies Debate Over Her Succession
As New York Times reported, After a second episode in which Ms. Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, trembled uncontrollably in public last week, she headed to the airport, took a 12-hour flight to Japan, held 10 bilateral meetings and four group sessions with world leaders, including President Trump, then flew back to Europe for a record-breaking 20-hour negotiation with her European counterparts in Brussels.The last several days have been a reminder of Ms. Merkel’s storied stamina, proven in countless crisis summits during her 14 years in office.
But they also reinforce the mystery of what exactly is going on with the health of the woman who has been the rock of European politics at a time when the authority of both her party and her country appear to be declining.“When Angela Merkel trembles, the whole union trembles,” Stephan-Andreas Casdorff wrote in the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
On the surface, Ms. Merkel’s two recent trembling episodes within the space of 10 days, which followed a previous incident two years ago in Mexico, have been a strikingly low-key affair in Germany, a country fiercely protective of privacy.Tight-lipped advisers planted the idea that the second recent episode was psychosomatic, brought on by the memory of the first. The chancellor herself deflected questions in Japan, saying she had “nothing special to report.”
“I am doing fine,” she said. And that was that.But under the surface, the images of the chancellor’s moments of physical vulnerability have become symbolic of her party’s and country’s political frailty — and an occasion to revisit the topic of her succession.
In Brussels this week, Ms. Merkel, 64, failed to muster her hallmark consensus-building powers and steer her peers even to her second-choice candidate for the European Union’s top job. Still, in the final hours of negotiations on Tuesday, her influence proved important in getting a German, her defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, nominated as the president of the powerful European Commission. But domestically, opinion polls now regularly put Ms. Merkel’s conservatives in second place behind the liberal Greens.
Ms. Merkel’s anointed successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who last fall won the contest to succeed the chancellor as head of their conservative party, has seen her approval rating drop sharply in recent weeks as questions about her capacity to lead the party into the next election have grown louder.
Possible rivals — like Armin Laschet, the leader of Germany’s most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, and Markus Sِder, the leader of Bavaria’s conservatives, who pair with Ms. Merkel’s party nationally — are being floated as alternative candidates for the chancellery, an office traditionally tied to party leadership.In the meantime, Ms. Merkel, freed from having to run the party and organize the next election, has seen her popularity bounce back — only reinforcing the contrast with the embattled Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer.
When the chancellor announced her decision to run for a fourth four-year term in 2017 she added, explicitly, “health permitting.”
The qualification, which barely registered at the time, now has a different ring to it.The flip side of Ms. Merkel’s commitment to serving out her fourth term until 2021, said Nico Fried, a commentator in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, is “the promise to quit” if her physical strength reaches its limit.“Citizens can expect that respect of her,” Mr. Fried wrote. “Just as Merkel can expect the public’s respect in the discussion about her health.”
Others were less forgiving. Christopher Schwennicke, the editor of the magazine Cicero, compared the chancellery’s communication strategy to that of a Russian government that for years covered over the poor health of President Vladimir V. Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
“The German public deserves to know what is going on,” Mr. Schwennicke wrote. “It does not deserve to be treated with Kremlin-levels of secrecy.”
Germany is fiercely protective of privacy, and health has always been considered a private matter in the country.In the 1970s, Chancellor Willy Brandt suffered from grave depression and had multiple affairs, something that was well-known in journalists’ circles during his time in office but was not publicly discussed.His successor, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, had a heart ailment that resulted in him being found unconscious in his office multiple times. But again, the news media did not write about his health until after he left office.Over time, the taboo softened as some German politicians became more open about their health. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke publicly about donating a kidney to his wife. Wolfgang Schنuble, the veteran lawmaker and former finance minister, has used a wheelchair for decades. And Malu Dreyer, one of Germany’s 16 state governors, publicly announced that she had multiple sclerosis.But Ms. Merkel has taken privacy to another level — and not just on her health, her biographers say.
There is no official doctor attached to the chancellery. “No one knows who her doctor is,” said Stefan Kornelius, a Merkel biographer and the foreign editor of the Süddeutsche Zeitung.When she broke her pelvis in 2014 while cross-country skiing, it was reported that the file created in the hospital where she was treated was labeled with a fake name.“She has a Prussian toughness against herself,” Mr. Kornelius said. “She hasn’t missed a day in 14 years.”
After her most recent trembling incident, Ms. Merkel boarded a flight to Japan that arrived at 8 a.m. local time — 1 a.m. Berlin time — and went straight into her first day of meetings.
“Other leaders came a day early to sleep off the jet lag,” Mr. Kornelius said.Her attachment to privacy extends to other parts of her life, too.Little is known about her husband, Joachim Sauer, beyond his being a chemist and Wagner enthusiast. He is rarely seen in public.Last summer, when it emerged that Ms. Merkel was not going on her annual hiking trip to the Italian Alps with her husband, the reason was opaque, Mr. Kornelius said. “Was it too physically taxing? Did she want to boycott Italy because of Matteo Salvini,” the hard right interior minister, Mr. Kornelius said. “We don’t know.”
And for about four weeks, the public did not even know the chancellor’s whereabouts until she was spotted in a Berlin department store, he said.“Can you imagine this being the case for an American president?” he said.
Although Mr. Trump does not disclose the full details of his health, when Hillary Clinton came down with pneumonia during the 2016 presidential campaign and disappeared from the news media’s sight for 90 minutes — to her daughter’s apartment to rest, it turned out — it caused a storm.Evelyn Roll, another Merkel biographer, recalled writing emails to the chancellor’s husband every three months for years to request an interview, to no avail. In the end she asked for a conversation “only on chemistry,” but that, too, was politely declined.“Merkel has been private from the beginning,” Ms. Roll said. “There have never even been the glossy holiday shots past chancellors would distribute to the press. It is the flip side of her being utterly without vanity and focused on her work. By and large, the German people respect that trade-off.”
Another reason there is no hysteria over the chancellor’s health may be that many Germans still trust in the stability and continuity of their political institutions.“That has been the
German experience over the last 70 years,” said Paul Nolte, a historian at the Free University of Berlin.“There is a fundamental trust in the continuity of the state body, which isn’t shaken by a politician’s body,” Mr. Nolte said. “People simply trust that a successor would do a good job, too.”
That factor could soon be a thing of the past in Europe’s newly fragmented political reality. Ms. Merkel’s underlying political weakness is undeniable by now, Mr. Kornelius said.
But after powering through possibly the most grueling week of travel and meetings of her chancellorship, Ms. Merkel not only proved her physical resilience once again; she also turned a stinging political defeat over her party’s preferred candidate into an unexpected last-minute victory by securing the top job for Germany anyway.
“This was never the plan,” Mr. Kornelius said. “But she will still be hailed for bringing the top job to Germany.”