Guy Verhofstadt and Daniel Cohn-Bendit won the European Leader Award on Thursday (6 June), after several weeks of online voting organised ahead of the State of the European Union forum.
Presenting the award, the chairman of the selection jury, Bernard Vergnes, noted that leadership is a complex and multifaceted concept. "We are looking here at someone that people would choose to follow, someone we all would like to play a greater European role in the future," he said.
Respectively leaders of the Liberals and Greens in the European Parliament, Verhofstadt and Cohn-Bendit have relentlessly pushed for a much closer union with a eurozone government and a separate eurozone budget.
In their recent book-manifesto, For Europa!, published last year, the two portray their vision for the United States of Europe. They say that the nation state, along with the lack of resolve of the European Council and the Council of ministers, are a thing of the past. They think the European Commission should be transformed as soon as possible into a European government, controlled by a European Parliament with enhanced powers.
"What is remarkable and notable is that Guy Verhofstadt and Daniel Cohn-Bendit did not only win but they won an absolute majority of votes cast – more votes than everyone else added together," said David Earnshaw, chief of Burson-Marsteller, which has led the online poll, in the context of the State of the European Union forum.
The forum comprises senior executives from the European Executive Council, business schools, consultancy firms and public relations companies.
Other prominent Europeans were in the running for this year's award. These included Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank; Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg; Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission; and Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland.
Juncker, Reding and Tusk are seen as possible candidates for European Commission president in 2014.
The outcome of the online poll "shows an undeniable demand for more Europe, a Europe that addresses citizens' needs, and a Europe that gets beyond austerity-quickly," Earnshaw said.