Forbes names ‘most powerful woman’ award winner

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For the second year in a row, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been awarded ‘The World’s Most Powerful Woman’ by Forbes magazine. She defeated European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and US Vice President Kamala Harris to take the top slot.

Von der Leyen jumped from tenth to first on Forbes’ annual list in 2022, praising her “strong and decisive support of Ukraine, as well as her continued leadership in bringing Europe through the coronavirus pandemic.”

This year, the magazine described her as “one of the West’s staunchest supporters of Ukraine amid Russia’s unprovoked invasion.”

Unlike in 2022, von der Leyen did not get a feature article this year, with Forbes simply naming her atop its list on Wednesday and updating its biography of her. 

From 2013 to 2019, Von der Leyen was Germany’s defence minister under Chancellor Angela Merkel. During this period, she led a force that was underfunded and decaying, with yearly reports pointing out that German troops lacked working weapons, vehicles, and even adequate footwear.

She became the first woman to chair the European Commission, the EU’s executive department, in December 2019. While Forbes praised her for pushing a €750 billion coronavirus relief programme for 2020, European conservatives chastised her for overtly withholding some of this money from Hungary and Poland due to their failure to welcome migrants or adopt liberal reforms sought by Brussels.

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022, von der Leyen swiftly became one of Kiev’s most vocal supporters on the international stage. The European Commission imposed nearly a dozen packages of sanctions on Moscow and embargoed Russian energy imports during her tenure, to the detriment of numerous EU economies.

Despite various member states citing concerns about Kiev’s low public finances, continuous military war with Russia, and massive corruption, Von der Leyen has promised Ukraine EU membership. She has also presided over the dramatic increase of the European Peace Facility, a euphemistically titled fund used by the commission to subsidise foreign conflicts, namely the one in Ukraine.