German airline Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, confirmed that its Flight 4U 9525 had crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday. In response to the incident, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not hesitate to drop everything and focus her attention on the tragedy. At a press conference, Angela Merkel commented on the Germanwings crash, calling it "a shock that puts us in Germany and the French and Spanish in mourning." This kind of swift action is what we've come to expect from Merkel, whose handling of the Germanwings crash is exemplary of her strong leadership as Germany's first female Chancellor and the oft-described de facto leader of the European Union.
Following news of the crash, Merkel gave a televised statement, during which she (as translated by Deutsche Welle) mourned for the victims, expressed her condolences to those who lost loved ones in the crash, and vowed to work with French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to determine the cause of the accident. She also announced that she would be visiting the crash site on Wednesday to assess the situation. And spokesperson Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin that Merkel has cleared her schedule to deal with the matter.The plane crash, which authorities believe has killed all 150 passengers and crew members on board, is one of the worst accidents to affect Germany in recent history. The airline has confirmed that at least 67 Germans were on the flight, possibly including, tragically, 16 schoolchildren and two teachers from western Germany.
While authorities continue working to answer questions about the crash, the German people can at least have faith that their leader will do all she can to get her country through this tough time. Just look at how she's handled similarly monumental moments in the past.
The Eurozone Crisis
During Merkel's second term as chancellor, Europe was plunged into a debt crisis, also known as the Eurozone crisis, which will undoubtedly help define her legacy. In 2011, she declared in a speech to her Christian Democratic Union party members:
If the euro fails, Europe fails. We can't let that happen.
And while the euro has taken a significant hit since the crisis began, Merkel has kept Germany afloat. As other parts of the eurozone saw their economies tank, Germany remained relatively stable in its employment and standard of living. Though she suffered some approval drops during her second term, her overall handling of the crisis has been praised by the majority of Germans, even helping her win a third term in 2013.
Love Parade Disaster
In 2010, an estimated 1.4 million people descended on Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, for the Love Parade music festival. What was supposed to be a massive gathering of electronic music fans ended in tragedy when a stampede crushed and killed 21 people and injured more than 500.
In response to the disaster, Merkel launched a thorough investigation into the matter, telling a press conference:
It now needs to be very intensively investigated as to how this happened because the many young people who were delighted to be going to the event have had... terrible memories and we have to do everything to make sure that something like this does not happen again.
She also joined the commemoration service to pay respects to the 21 individuals who lost their lives.
Reining In Putin
For anyone who still has doubts over Merkel's toughness, just look at her history with Putin. She's consistently gone head to head with him, most recently in February when she met with Putin, Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko to negotiate a deal over the escalating situation in eastern Ukraine.
During a meeting in 2007, Putin called his black lab into the room seemingly deliberately to intimidate Merkel, who is afraid of dogs. Merkel commented on the confrontation later, telling reporters:
I understand why he has to do this — to prove he's a man. He's afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.
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