POLITICO 28 -The most powerful people in Europe — ranked

The 28 doers, disrupters and dreamers shaping European politics and policy in 2020.

Where does the power lie in Europe? 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. 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.

The German chancellor and the French president will always have lead voices in the choir, but neither is capable of forcing the rest of Europe to sing from their song sheets. If Germany was once too small for the world but too big for Europe, today it is outmuscled on the Continent by a host of interlocking alliances and institutional constraints.

A player’s combat readiness also depends on the field of battle being contested. Berlin may have an upper hand when it comes to finance or trade. But on military matters, it’s Paris, London or maybe Moscow calling the shots.

The firepower in Brussels is similarly scattered among its fractious institutions. The European Commission sets the legislative agenda, allowing it to kick off epochal reforms on policy areas like copyright and privacy protection. But when it comes to subjects like migration or the role of the euro, national leaders in the European Council have the upper hand. Who do you call if you want to call Europe? It depends on what you want to ask.

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