Tallinn seminar

14 September 2017 - 12:30 - 16 September 2017 - 14:30
Maadh Alsammarraien, Monica Byrne, Mike Feerick, Steve Hanke, Lisa Hanle, Jason Hickel, André Loesekrug-Pietri, Leo Michel, Maive Rute, Alma R. Selimović, Jaan Tallinn

The European Young Leaders meet amidst a series of significant elections that will give a better sense of the state and future direction of Europe – and of people’s concerns, fears and hopes.

Decision-makers are waking up to the realities of a certain kind of people power, and a certain attitude to politics. In recent years, events such as the unexpected election of Trump, the shock Brexit vote and the unprecedented scale of the Arab Spring are demonstrative of citizenries that are no longer satisfied with the status quo, taking to the streets and to the voting booths to express their ongoing frustration with the governing classes; citizens that feel left behind and out of control, having taken for granted global improvements in education, health, wealth and consumer choice. Solutions to these feelings of frustration and powerlessness are hard to find – but ignoring the problem or over-simplifying the causes will not lead to answers.

In Europe, both the defeat of Wilders and Le Pen provide a sense of hope and optimism that voters continue to believe in common good, equality and fairness. But come with a warning that there is a need for a genuinely different kind of politics: one that is not just the same old approach with a new look and new language.

Yet, in a world in which the improbable has been realised, the impossible no longer seems out of reach. This creates endless opportunities for a new generation of Young Leaders to steer the world in a direction which reflects a positive renewal of the modern social, economic and political climate.

Digital is key to this new global reality: a new-found superpower. It is disruptive and unpredictable in ways we still cannot fully understand, transforming politics, behaviour, systems and the economy. It will determine how we are governed, offering transparency, accountability and the possibility of ‘e-democracy’, but possibly at the expense of confidence and trust. It will impact our security. And it will increasingly be the foundation of work and education, driving the automation, artificial intelligence and augmented reality that will become the new mainstays of our lives through the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Young Leaders will debate how the interaction between civil society, technology, business and politics is rapidly changing in the early part of this century, and the effect that this will have on citizens and communities in Europe and around the world. For the first time, European Young Leaders will be joined by Young Leaders  from North America, and the Middle East and North Africa, to expand the conversation and exchange experiences with their regional counterparts.

You can read our daily updates from the Tallinn Seminar here

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What do a microbiologist, an entrepreneur, a journalist and a Member of Parliament have in common? They are all European Young Leaders who are engaged in making Europe a global champion for a better world.

Brussels is not Europe, and the discussions that take place here are far from representative of the issues that concern many of Europe’s citizens. Governments across the world are struggling with this disconnect as citizens show an increasing lack of trust in politics and politicians. 


14 September
12.30 – 14.00

Welcome lunch

Over lunch, young leaders from all regions will meet in their pre-selected leadership groups (each with eight people) to introduce themselves and discuss their leadership journeys.

14.00 – 14.15

Welcome and Introduction to the Tallinn seminar

14.15 – 15.30

NAVIGATING A NEW WORLD ORDER: Re-thinking neoliberalism

Chief among criticisms of neoliberalism is that placing too much faith in free markets as the sole means to improving living standards has been counterproductive, widening the inequality gap rather than addressing it.

So far, neoliberalism has failed to convincingly address these shortcomings, and without a concrete vision for the future, many citizens dissatisfied with the status quo have reverted to the past for solutions, resulting in the resurrection of conservative populist movements throughout Europe and North America. But if neither populism, nor neoliberalism offers a new vision for the future, then there is a distinct opportunity to build one from scratch: one whose organising principles are restructured around inclusive and sustainable growth, rather than economic profit alone.

16.00 – 18.30



Develop a story of your leadership group and present this to the wider group in five minutes.

B. ESTONIA’S DIGITAL SUCCESS STORY: Visit to e-Estonia Showroom

They may be more modest than those of North America, but Europe has many success stories in the digital era. Estonia, in particular, has punched above its weight, promoting the use of electronic solutions for a range of public and other services, and incubating new businesses such as Skype and Transferwise.

This visit will cover the underlying mechanisms of digitising a society, including the development of necessary infrastructure, e-solutions and services, as well as providing an overview of the main policy challenges.

19.30 – 20.00

Scenic bus tour around Tallinn


“Trash-cooking” Dinner hosted by renowned Swedish chef Peeter Pihel

According to the European Commission, approximately 33% of all food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted each year.

Chef Peeter Pihel invites you to participate in a « Trash Cooking » dinner to learn more about his low-waste approach to high-quality meals, including how to better understand “best before” markings, the differing characteristics of various raw foods, and economical ways to practice sustainable consumption.


15 September
09.30 – 10.15


This conversation with a top military official will focus on navigating the complexities of the modern geopolitical system, and policing an increasingly dangerous divide between a nervous West and a resurgent Russia.

10.15 – 11.45


Digitisation and automation are changing the world of work. They may offer chances to enhance skills and boost productivity; they may also threaten jobs that can be more easily and quickly carried out by robots.

These fears are not unique to the so-called ‘4th Industrial Revolution’. Previous industrial revolutions, such as coal-powered manufacturing in the 19th century and mass production in the 20th caused upheaval and dislocation; but they eventually created new types of jobs.

But this upheaval and dislocation requires action: a focus on digital skills and offering the kind of educational opportunities that enable people to adapt to rapid changes in the world of work. Will it be the technical skills to work with intelligent machines? Or nurturing creativity and innovative thinking, to fulfil the roles that robots cannot?

This session will look at the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution and debate ideas about how Europe and the world prepares and adapts.

13.00– 14.30



Whether it be dance or theatre, music, film or poetry, the arts are frequently used as a lens through which civil societies examine their beliefs and experiences. But while these cultural aspects of society are accessible to the many, politics is often perceived as being reserved for an elite few, which has contributed to a widening gap between governments and their citizens in many countries around the world.

How can the arts help wider audiences to better understand the current political climate? How important is representation of minority and female experiences and perspectives in the arts in terms of affecting mainstream social attitudes and influencing political change? What lessons can be learned and what role should the arts play in our societies in the 21st century?


The USA’s recent withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement highlights the question: should any country be relied upon to lead the fight against climate change? Some speculators have looked to China, which is increasing its renewable energy capacity at breakneck speed; some to European countries such as France, which recently committed to a complete removal of non-electric cars from its transport system by 2040, whilst others warn that combatting climate change is simply too urgent and complex to entrust to the leadership of any single global actor and that a more pluralistic approach, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) initiative, is needed.

How can governments ensure that they meet their sustainable development commitments by the 2030 deadline? With some countries already predicted to miss their targets, which accountability measures are integral to ensuring that the transition to renewable energy is inclusive? To what extent should climate leadership come from the private sector? How can we improve international cooperation on marine issues to mitigate damage caused to oceans and polar ecosystems, with far-reaching implications for the global food supply and climate change?

14.30 – 15.00

Coffee break

15.00 – 17.00



Entrepreneurship has been democratised. Through digital technologies, crowdfunding, 3D printing and other innovations, turning a good idea into an economic success is possible for a greater number of people than ever before. Still, old barriers to entrepreneurship linger, whilst the changing economic and regulatory enviroment creates new hurdles for the next generation of entrepreneurs to overcome.

What role should our education and vocational training systems play in encouraging innovation? How do we ensure that new companies – their approach to markets, products and services – maintain a wider social benefit beyond profit? With increased automation, how do we avoid creating the type of “jobless society” in which an ever-growing percentage of the population finds itself not just without an income, but without a “stake in society”?


With 65 million refugees and displaced people worldwide, existing migration systems and processes have been tested almost to breaking point. The challenge: how to feed and house large numbers of people arriving, to integrate them and find them work and a purpose? One possibility is to develop a centralised database for highly-skilled refugees to facilitate matching host countries with particular skills deficits with qualified migrant candidates, thus freeing up positions for less-skilled migrants to be integrated into the economy.

Would this help to ease the strain on competition for blue-collar positions amongst domestic and migrant populations? What level of screening should be applied, especially in times of acute need? And how do regions such as the Middle East and North Africa – the source of many refugees arriving in Europe – ensure that a ‘brain drain’ does not irreparably impact its economy and security?


Security challenges are evolving, encompassing not only long-standing threats (such as conventional warfare and nuclear proliferation) but new threats like cyber-security, asymmetric warfare, climate change and space. The evolving global landscape is further complicated by challenges to the existing world order: the changing purpose of military alliances such as NATO, the uncertain role of global bodies such as the United Nations, the rise of new powers, especially in Asia, and the wide-ranging impact of security challenges in the Middle East and North Africa.

If the world continues to turn towards bilateralism and away from multilateralism, how do we rethink security in the 21st century and address the serious and cross-border threats we face? As the U.S.A. repositions itself to put “America First”, what are the implications for its transatlantic defence and security relations with Europe? What key lessons can be learned about multilateral cooperation on security from NATO’s history and how should NATO’s role evolve in light of recent displays of military ambition from Russia? Could the creation of an Arab equivalent to NATO be effective in managing security in the Middle East and North Africa?


Increased participation, collaboration, and delegation is required to improve our democracies, necessitating a shift in the kind of education which is essential to developing the citizens of the future. Yet in many regions, including the European Union, there is little-to-no in-depth reconsideration of our education systems, nor does a redesign, driven by our future societal and economic needs, seem to be an urgent item on the agenda at any level of governance.

Future education models need to pay increasing attention to: the role and training of teachers; teaching methods; the relationship between technology and education; diversity and inclusive education policies; fostering widespread entrepreneurial spirit.

How should these dimensions be accounted for and prioritised? Should cross-border coordination aim to define educational standards? Where is innovation and  investment most needed in education? Which countries are leading the way on education, and why? To what extent can those lagging behind be motivated to invest in replicating successful education models?

18.30 – 19.30

Tour of Tallinn’s Old Town

19.30 – 20.00

Concert “Vox Clamantis”


Dinner in town


16 September
10.00 – 11.00

BEHIND THE SCENES: Peer learning

Short conversations in an informal, roundtable setting with Young Leaders on issues that matter to them, to gain expertise from this useful network.

This session will be divided into two 30 minute time slots. Each timeslot will feature six simultaneous group discussions: 2 led by European Young Leaders; 2 led by NA Young Leaders; and 2 led by MENA Young Leaders.

11.00 – 11.30

Coffee break

11.30 – 12.30


The theoretical computer scientist Alan Turing, widely viewed as the father of artificial intelligence (AI), voiced concerns about potential risks of the technology from as early as 1951. Yet the development of AI has progressed largely unchecked, with any discussion on AI safety being underfunded and confined to the fringes of research. Many look enthusiastically towards AI as an existential opportunity, one which will have untold benefits for humankind, but without the appropriate ethical controls in place, could it also be the greatest threat to our future?

12.30 – 13.30


Young Leaders will discuss and commit to ways to connect, debate and change – with the support of the European Young Leaders programme.

13.30 – 14.30



End of seminar

Maadh Alsammarraien
Market Analyst at Fortum Charge & Drive
Maadh Alsammarraien holds a B.S. in Thermal Energy System from the American University of Iraq. He has also studied at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania in Greece. Maadh has lived and worked in Finland since 2015 and strongly believes in social and economic integration through work. Until recently, he worked as Chief Operating Officer for Zharity, a startup social enterprise which helps asylum seekers in Finland to find work through their web service.
Monica Byrne
Author and Playwright
Monica Byrne is a US American author and playwright. Her debut science-fiction novel, The Girl in the Road, received widespread critical acclaim and she is particularly noted for her creation of mold--breaking characters. In addition to her work on her new novel The Actual Star, Byrne is a resident playwright at the Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern in Durham, North Carolina. Her story "Blue Nowruz" was commissioned for TED2015 by Neil Gaiman. She is an active culture critic, advocate for social equality and holds degrees in biochemistry from MIT and Wellesley.
Mike Feerick
CEO & Founder of ALISON
Mike Feerick is CEO/Founder of Alison, one of the world’s largest free learning platforms and widely credited as being the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) provider worldwide. He is a globally-recognised social entrepreneur, having been featured across international media including The New York Times, Forbes, The Guardian and The Economist, and a popular speaker on the future of workplace learning. Mike received a Diploma Award from UNESCO for innovation in education (2010), an Ashoka Fellowship (2011), and a Guinness Social Fund Award (2012). He was also a 2016 Finalist of the World Economic Forum’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year awards. He holds degrees from the University of Limerick, and Harvard University.
Steve Hanke
Professor of Applied Economics and Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at The Johns Hopkins University
Steve H. Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics and Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at The Johns Hopkins University. Throughout his career, Prof. Hanke, has advised numerous world leaders, from US President Reagan to Indonesia’s President Suharto, on managing currency reforms, infrastructure development, privatization, and hyperinflation. In addition to his role at The Johns Hopkins University, Prof. Hanke is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., a Special Counselor to the Center for Financial Stability in New York, a contributing editor at Central Banking in London, a contributor at Forbes and is also a member of both the Charter Council of the Society of Economic Measurement and of Euromoney Country Risk’s Experts Panel.
Lisa Hanle
Senior Fellow at the GHG Management Institute
Lisa Hanle is a senior fellow at the GHG Management Institute (GHGMI) where she supports capacity building efforts related to GHG inventories. Previously, she worked at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where she supported the international negotiations and implementation processes related to GHG reporting and review.  Lisa worked for over a decade in the U.S. Government, serving on the U.S. delegation to several international meetings. She also supported development of the annual U.S. GHG inventory, was a core member of the team that developed the first mandatory, facility-level GHG reporting program in the United States, and served as a lead author for the 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.
Jason Hickel
Anthropologist at the London School of Economics
Dr Jason Hickel is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.  His research focuses on the political economy of development, poverty, inequality and climate change.  He is the author of a number of books, most recently The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions (Penguin 2017).  In addition to his academic work, Jason contributes regularly to The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and other online outlets.
André Loesekrug-Pietri
Head, The Joint European Disruptive Initiative (J.E.D.I.)
André has held leadership positions in private equity, government, industry and as an entrepreneur. Starting as assistant to the CEO of Aerospatiale-Airbus, he then spent 15 years in private equity and venture capital, including 10 years in China, investing in European companies with global ambitions. In 2017, he paused from the private sector to become Special Advisor to the French Minister of Defense, responsible for European Defense policy as well as technology and innovation. He is now managing the Joint European Disruptive Initiative, aiming to accelerate France and Germany’s leadership in disruptive innovations. A graduate from HEC and from Harvard Kennedy School, he also attended Sup-Aero aerospace engineering school, and is a private pilot and Colonel with the French Air Force People’s Reserve.
Leo Michel
Visiting Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs (Helsinki), and Non-resident Fellow, Atlantic Council (Washington)
Leo Michel is Visiting Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs (Helsinki), and Non-resident Fellow, Atlantic Council (Washington). He retired from the Defense Department in 2015, where he served as Distinguished Research Fellow at National Defense University and held positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, including Director for NATO Policy, Director for Non-Nuclear Arms Control, and Deputy US Representative, US-Russia Bilateral Consultative Commission. He previously served in the CIA and US Navy, worked as a congressional staffer, and as a reporter for French media. He holds degrees from Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and Princeton University.
Maive Rute
Deputy Director General, Joint Research Centre, European Commission Science and Knowledge Service
Maive Rute joined the European Commission in 2005 to become Director for the Promotion of SMEs, Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship in DG Enterprise and Industry. She brought in her extensive management experience in the Estonian public sector, notably three years spent as a Managing Director of the Rural Credit Guarantee Fund and five years as CEO of the Estonian Credit and Export Guarantee Fund KredEx. In the Commission, Ms Rute also worked as Director for Biotechnologies, Food and Agriculture Research and as a Resource Director in DG Research and Innovation. Ms Rute graduated as an agricultural economist from the Estonian University of Life Sciences and holds an MBA from the Danube University Krems, Austria, and a Masters in international politics from CERIS, Belgium.
Alma R. Selimović
Development Director at Bunker
Alma R. Selimović is the Development Director at Bunker, focusing mainly on fundraising, development of projects bringing together education and contemporary art and leading the Create to Connect network. Her projects focus on establishing long-term relationships with the audiences and on the empowerment potential of arts.
Jaan Tallinn
Founding engineer of Skype and Kazaa
Jaan Tallinn is a founding engineer of Skype and Kazaa. He founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk with Huw Price and Martin Rees. He is a co-founder of the Future of Life Institute and philanthropically supports other existential risk research organizations. He is also a partner at Ambient Sound Investments (, an active angel investor, and has served on the Estonian President’s Academic Advisory Board.

With the support of

Estonian Presidency John Latsis Foundation Fondazione Cariplo


Registration for this event is only open to our network of European Young Leaders and alumni.

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Claire O'Sullivan, Senior Programme & Development Manager
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 18
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