Merkel unavailable for political office after chancellorship

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on as she attends a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Angela Merkel said on Thursday she would be unavailable for any further political office after serving out her fourth term as chancellor, dismissing speculation that she could take a big European Union job in Brussels.

“I am not available for any further political office, regardless of where it is – including in Europe,” Merkel told a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Speculation about Merkel’s future swirled in Berlin after she told Thursday’s edition of the Sueddeutsche newspaper: “Many people are concerned about Europe – including myself. This means I feel even more duty-bound to join others in making sure that Europe has a future.”

She made clear at the news conference that she saw it as her responsibility to promote Europe in her job as chancellor rather than in a future position.

Merkel – Europe’s longest-serving leader – announced last October that her fourth term as chancellor would be her last and that she would not seek any political post after her term ends, beginning a stage-managed gradual exit from politics.

In December, she then handed over the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to heir apparent Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, sometimes dubbed ‘mini-Merkel’, said in comments published earlier this week that she had no ambition to succeed Merkel as chancellor until 2021, which is when the current German legislative term is due to run until.

“The chancellor and the government are elected for a full term and citizens are right to expect that they take this mandate seriously,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.

“Speaking for myself, I can rule out that I am working in my own interest for a change.”

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Michelle Martin

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