Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovak President Zuzana Caputova and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – two political leaders opposed in almost every way – have been selected in Politico’s list of the 28 most powerful people in Europe, an annual ranking, now in its fifth running year, of the most influential and disruptive figures in European politics.
Zuzana Caputova – President of Slovakia – ‘The Role Model’
In March, Zuzana Caputova was the first woman to be elected president in Slovakia’s history. A former anti-corruption, environmental lawyer and activist, Caputova rose to the front-stage in the wake of the murder, last year, of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, a tragedy that rocked the country and unleashed a wave of public anger that paved the way for her shock election.
“For Central and Eastern Europe’s progressives, Zuzana Caputova offers hope that another future is possible”, writes Politico, who nominated her as one of the most influential public figures in Europe. “Unabashedly Europhile and liberal in a region plagued by creeping authoritarianism; an anti-corruption crusader in a country fed up with allegations of sleaze; a divorced, single mother of two in a political landscape still dominated by men – it’s little wonder Caputova’s admirers see her as a symbol of change“.
Viktor Orban – Prime Minister of Hungary – ‘The Sloganeer’
Prime Minister since 2010 and leader of the governing Fidesz party, Viktor Orban won a landslide victory last year and was reelected for a third consecutive term at the helm of Hungary. For anyone following European politics, Budapest’s strongman needs no introduction: the EU’s populist ‘bad boy’, relentless trouble-maker and far-right authoritarian for some, Christian Europe’s saviour and the silent minority’s foremost spokesman for the others, Viktor Orban has positioned himself as one of the key and arguably the most divisive political figure in Europe’s current political landscape.
“The Hungarian Prime Minister has demonstrated an affinity with one of the central tenets of marketing: Keep it simple”, Politico argues. “That, combined with well-picked fights with Brussels, is why Orban has emerged as the standard bearer for nationalism as an antithesis to what he describes as supranational overreach by the European Union”.
Most influential people in Europe in 2020
Every year, Politico selects the 28 public figures and personalities who are “shaping, shaking and stirring Europe” – a most complex task considering the difficulties in navigating the EU’s labyrinthine and ever-shifting power dynamics.
“In many of the European Union’s strategic rivals, there’s no debate over who is the most influential person: It’s the one at the top”, Politico editors wrote to explain the ranking’s philosophy. “In Europe, the question is far more complicated. The ability to exert one’s will is apportioned in small if uneven doses across the continent”.
So, without further ado, here’s the entire list of the Politico 28 Class of 2020 of the most influential people in Europe.
- Emmanuel Macron – French President
- Margrethe Vestager – EU Commission vice-President
- Christine Lagarde – European Central Bank Governor
- Vladimir Putin – Russian President
- Boris Johnson – U.K. Prime Minister
- Angela Merkel – German Chancellor
- Ursula von der Leyen – EU Commission President
- Leo Varadkar – Irish Prime Minister
- Sebastian Kurz – Austrian Chancellor
- Phil Hogan – EU Commissioner for Trade
- Dominic Cummings – Top advisor to the U.K. Prime Minister
- Robert Habeck – Co-chairman of Germany’s Greens party
- David Marcus – Facebook top executive
- Matteo Renzi – Former Italian Prime Minister and head of Italia Viva party
- Matteo Salvini – Leader of Italy’s League party
- Nicola Sturgeon – Head of the Scottish National Party
- Johannes Caspar – Head of Hamburg’s data protection agency
- François Ruffin – Left-wing French politician
- Zuzana Caputova – Slovak President
- Greta Thunberg – Swedish environmental activist
- Viktor Orban – Hungarian Prime Minister
- Bruno Le Maire – French Economy and Finance Minister
- Carola Rackete – German boat captain and NGO activist
- Klaus Welle – Secretary General of the European Parliament
- Elizabeth Denham – U.K. chief privacy and information commissioner
- Götz Kubitschek – German writer and far-right activist
- Olaf Scholz – German Finance Minister
- Jean-Daniel Zamor – French Deliveroo biker and activist