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Readers of POLITICO have selected Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the most powerful person in Europe.
The “Audience Choice” online poll is aimed at updating the annual POLITICO 28 list of the most powerful people that was published in December. The list, which predicts who will be making the political weather and taking the big decisions in Europe this year, was a result of months of debate amongst the 100-strong editorial team.
In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the profound geopolitical and economic shifts that have followed, POLITICO invited readers to vote on changes to the list.
One contributor to the Audience Choice survey, which was launched in early March, described Zelenskyy as “a beacon of hope” who was striving for “peace, democracy, decency” as Ukraine struggles to resist an invasion by Russian forces.
Since the fighting started in the early hours of February 24, Zelenskyy has posted regular video updates on social media, including posts of him in downtown Kyiv and at work in his presidential office complex.
He has also delivered powerful video speeches to the U.S. Congress, U.K. parliament and German Bundestag among others, tailoring each appearance to hammer home a central message: that Ukraine needs more support from the West in its fight against Russia.
Critically, his messaging has helped change the nature of debate within European capitals, forcing the kind of U-turns in government policy that were unthinkable just a few months ago.
For example, Germany suspended the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline just ahead of the invasion and broke a long-standing taboo on sending weapons to conflict zones, while also pledging to boost defense spending. Elsewhere, countries recently critical of Europe’s migration policy, such as Poland and Hungary, have opened their borders to millions of refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
In the POLITICO 28 poll, readers also said Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock should have made the original list. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen were touted as the most popular alternatives for the overall most powerful position.
POLITICO selected Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi as our overall most powerful person last December.