Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou. Picture:AFP/EUROKINISSI
Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou. Picture:AFP/EUROKINISSI

Paris — Senior Greek judge Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou will join a small group of women leading EU countries when she is confirmed as president on Wednesday. Once her nomination is approved by parliament, Sakellaropoulou will be the first woman in Greece to hold the largely ceremonial post.

Here are the EU’s other sitting women leaders, excluding queens.

Merkel ‘most powerful’

Angela Merkel became Germany’s first female chancellor when she was elected in 2005 and has led Europe’s biggest economy ever since, winning a fourth four-year term in March 2018.

She was, however, weakened in legislative elections in 2017 when her conservative CDU/CSU bloc registered a historically low score. It took five months to form a coalition government.

Merkel has been named “the world’s most powerful woman” several times by Forbes magazine. She will step down in 2021.

Series of firsts

Belgium: In October 2019, King Philippe  chose francophone liberal Sophie Wilmès as interim prime minister, the first woman to hold the post. The linguistically divided kingdom does not, however, have a fully functioning government. The last coalition collapsed in December 2018 and negotiations on a new executive have stalled.

Croatia: Conservative Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was elected president in January 2015, the first woman in Croatia to hold the largely ceremonial position. But on February 18 she hands over  to social democrat Zoran Milanović, who won January elections.

Estonia: In October 2016, former EU auditor Kersti Kaljulaid became the first female president of the Baltic state, elected by parliament to the largely ceremonial role.

Slovakia: Liberal lawyer and anti-graft campaigner Zuzana Čaputová took office in June 2019 as Slovakia’s first female president. A political novice, she comfortably beat the ruling party’s candidate in March elections.


Denmark: Social Democrat leader Mette Frederiksen became prime minister in June 2019 after general elections. At 41, she was the youngest prime minister in the history of the country. Denmark’s first female prime minister was Helle Thorning-Schmidt, also from the Social Democrats, who served from 2011 to 2015.

Finland: In December 2019, Social Democrat Sanna Marin  became, at 34, the youngest sitting prime minister in the world — at least until January 2020,  when Austria’s Sebastian Kurz was sworn in at the age of 33 for a second term as head of government. Marin is Finland’s third female prime minister.

Wider Europe

Elsewhere in Europe, but outside the EU, other women currently in power are Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg; Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir; Georgia President Salome Zurabishvili; and Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.