European Leader of the Year

European Leader of the Year nominees:

1. Antonio Costa

Socialist Party leader Antonio Costa became Portugal’s prime minister in 2015 after toppling the 11-year-old conservative government. Since coming into office, the former minister and mayor of Lisbon has steered the country into solid growth and brought unemployment down to single digits for the first time since Portugal was plunged into crisis in 2010. He is now facing pressure at home to accelerate anti-austerity measures. Find out more:  

2. Kersti Kaljulaid

Kersti Kaljulaid became Estonia’s youngest and first ever female president in 2016 after a long stint as the country’s representative in the European Court of Auditors. A strong supporter of digital technology, Kaljulaid has described her country as the “only digital society which actually has a state” after launching an e-residency programme, allowing entrepreneurs to incorporate and run their business in Estonia, without actually visiting the country. Find out more:  

3. Sadiq Khan

One of eight children born to Pakistani immigrants, Khan made history in 2016 when he became the first Muslim to be elected mayor of London, on a pledge to tackle rising inequality. He had previously served as minister for communities and then transport in the Labour government of Gordon Brown. A fierce defender of multiculturalism, Khan has been praised for his handling of the terror attacks that rocked London. Find out more: 

4. Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron revolutionised politics in his home country when he launched his grassroots political movement En Marche in April 2016. Thirteen months later he was elected to the presidency on a pro-EU, pro-globalisation platform, despite having never held an elected office before. A former investment banker, Macron had served as Minister of Economy under President François Hollande. Find out more:  

5. May Lou McDonald

Barely a few months after joining Ireland’s Sinn Fein party in 1998, Mary Lou McDonald had risen through the ranks to become part of the leadership team. She then made history by becoming the party’s first MEP in 2004, before suffering a few more electoral defeats. Still, McDonald became the party’s leader in February 2018 after nine years serving as vice president. Along with her Vice President in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, she represents the new generation of Irish Republican leaders in the post-conflict era. Find out more:  

6. Angela Merkel

The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany where she obtained a Phd in physics. She joined the Christian Democratic Union party in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin wall and was quickly called upon to serve in government. In 2005, she became the first woman to be elected Chancellor and established herself as the de-facto leader of the European Union and the most powerful woman on the planet. Merkel and the CDU were severely weakened in the 2017 election, in what was seen as backlash for her decision to open Germany’s borders to millions of refugees. Find out more:  

7. Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar was only 38 when he became Ireland’s Taoiseach (prime minister) in 2017, making him the youngest person to hold that office. He is also the first openly gay man and half-Indian person to do so. One of his first acts was to announce a referendum on abortion to be held in May 2018. Among the many challenges ahead for Varadkar is Britain’s departure from the European Union and what it will mean for the Celtic island. Find out more:  

8. Margrethe Vestager

Danish politician Margrethe Vestager is known at home for her role as parliamentarian and minister. But it’s for her position as the European Union’s Competition Commissioner that she is best known across the EU, having called out big multinationals for tax avoidance since taking office in 2014. Her high-profile battles include antitrust charges against Google and investigations into the tax practices of Starbucks, Amazon and Apple. Find out more: