Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, paid tribute to outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a speech Thursday, for acting as a “role model” for younger women.
Lagarde was speaking in a press conference focused on ECB monetary policy, when she was asked about the possibility of Annalena Baerbock becoming the next leader of Germany.
On Monday, Baerbock was selected as the Green Party’s candidate for chancellor. Germany’s Green Party is just a few percentage points behind Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party in the polls, with growing voter focus on climate change. This has increased the likelihood that the Greens will have a big part in forming the next German government following the federal election in September.
Lagarde said Baerbock’s ascent demonstrated that Merkel had “not discouraged younger women to enter into politics and that’s a very high tribute to a woman” who has led Germany for 16 years.
“It’s the value of role models,” Lagarde added.
Lagarde said that Baerbock’s rise showed “you don’t need to be a seasoned, grey-hair or white-hair(ed) person, to enter into politics and be recognized for your own talent.”
This was something touched upon by Lagarde in a recent episode of the ECB podcast, speaking alongside European Commisssion President Ursula von der Leyen.
Von der Leyen also credited Merkel for instilling confidence in her, when hiring her to become a minister in her cabinet.
Von der Leyen said “it’s our responsibility, mainly as female leaders, to encourage” younger women.
Like Lagarde, who was part of France’s synchronized swimming team as a teenager, Baerbock is also a former athlete, having also competed nationally in Germany as a trampoline gymnast as a teenager.
Asked about their similar backgrounds in relation to going into politics, Lagarde said competitive sports can “equip you with a little spirit of competition, hard skin and the desire to excel.”