The world's most powerful woman is the backbone of the 27-member European Union and carries the fate of the euro on her shoulders. Merkel's hard-line austerity prescription for easing the European debt crisis has been challenged by both hard-hit southern countries and the more affluent north, most particularly French President Francois Hollande. Merkel has served as ¬chancellor since 2005, the first woman in the position, but her biggest challenge may still lie ahead: she is running for a third term this fall's general elections. 2013 SPOTLIGHT: Merkel has earned the top spot on the FORBES list of Most Powerful Women In The World for eight of the past 10 years.
(AP Photo/Michael Sohn) More From Forbes
: See More of The World’s Most Powerful Women The Youngest Power Women The World's Most Powerful Couples The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.