BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel has squelched a new bout of speculation that she might seek a top European job after standing down as Germany's leader, insisting Thursday that she won't take another political post - “no matter where it is.”
Merkel last year gave up the leadership of her center-right party and said she wouldn't seek a fifth term as chancellor. She said then that she doesn't want another political job after she leaves office.
Nonetheless, periodic speculation has flared about the possibility of Merkel seeking a top European Union job. Last month, outgoing EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he “simply cannot imagine that Angela Merkel will disappear without trace” and that “she would be highly qualified” for a European position.
The latest flurry of guessing was prompted by Merkel herself. In an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung published Thursday, a week before elections to the European Parliament that are expected to strengthen populist parties at the expense of the center, the 64-year-old said that “many people are concerned about Europe, including myself.”
That, she added, gives her “even greater feeling of responsibility to take care, together with others, of the fate of this Europe.”
At a news conference later Thursday, Merkel said what she meant is that “it is right for me as German chancellor to strengthen, rather than not, my efforts to ensure a good, functioning Europe in view of the situations we have and in view of the polarization.”
She said the pledge she made last year stands, “namely that I am not available for any other political office, no matter where it is, including in Europe.”
Speculation has flourished in part because it remains unclear how much longer Merkel will be German chancellor.
The next election isn't due until late 2021. However, there are questions over whether the fragile governing coalition of Merkel's conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats will last that long, or whether Merkel might try to hand over the chancellery before then to her successor as party leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.