Europe’s democracy problem: reflections on strengthening democracy in Europe

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Europe’s democracy problem: reflections on strengthening democracy in Europe

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European Young Leaders (EYL40) brainstormed ways to strengthen democracy in Europe, searching for solutions as political systems risk being shaken by yet another crisis in the shape of dramatic cost-of-living increases triggered by Russian’s war on Ukraine.

Participants warned that the rise in energy and other prices increased the dangers that populist extremists will further profit from citizens’ disillusion with mainstream politicians, as centrist parties fail to respond to the ‘emotional’ nature of modern politics.

“There is something wrong with the nature of politics, whether it is right or left, and the centre seems to be missing,” noted Dharmendra Kanani, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe.

Ciarán Devane, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) at Coventry University and Trustee of Friends of Europe, highlighted the need to revive public participation in politics.

“We have a participation problem. We cannot complain that parties don’t look like us, if we are not in those parties,” he told the group.

Speakers argued that talented people should be encouraged to go into politics, but with a full awareness of the challenges they face in a polarised electoral landscape where far-right parties have scored notable recent successes.

“Talking to right-wing populists is like playing chess with pigeons: it doesn’t matter how good you are, they finally scatter the pieces and shit on the board,” said Ece Temelkuran, award-winning Turkish novelist, political commentator and author of “How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship”. “If any of you participate in today’s politics, you’ll feel you are playing chess with a pigeon.”

Ways to ‘re-politicise’ citizens at a European level so they become more engaged in politics formed the basis of a debate led by Alberto Alemanno, Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law at HEC Paris, Founder of The Good Lobby and 2014 EYL40. Key ideas included raising public awareness of the instruments available for citizens to influence policy and new rules for European Parliament elections to promote a common European political space.

The EYL40 programme is a unique initiative bringing together young people who are setting the pace in fields ranging from politics and the arts to technology and civil society. Friday’s meeting feeds into wider, pan-European and multi-stakeholder efforts to promote more positive politics from all sides in the run up to the 2024 European Parliament elections and define the basis of a Renewed Social Contract for the 21st century.

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Credits: Алесь Усцінаў/Pexels



PART I — Scene setting Expand PART I — Scene setting


Sir Ciarán Devane

Chair of Irish Health Service Executive, Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Ece Temelkuran

Award-winning Turkish novelist, political commentator and author of "How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship" and "Together: 10 Choices for a Better Now"

Moderated by

Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

PART II — Be the change Expand PART II — Be the change

Led by

Alberto Alemanno

Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law at HEC Paris, Founder of The Good Lobby, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)



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Jamila Aanzi

Member of the Dutch Appeal Advisory Committee on Childcare Allowance and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Jamila Aanzi

Jamila Aanzi is a leading independent strategic consultant, educator and board member. She currently serves on the Dutch government appeal advisory commission to provide advice about the childcare benefits affair. Furthermore, she is a board member of the World Press Photo and the Stichting JES Rijland, an organisation that promotes the rights of youngsters in education and society. For various international clients, Aanzi provides consulting and coaching services about leadership, empowerment, education, diversity and inclusion. Aanzi previously worked as a senior international political trainer for the Max van der Stoel Foundation, with political parties in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa on diversity, the inclusion of young people and women, EU enlargement and democracy. Previously, she was the Dutch women’s representative to the United Nations, a member of the European Elections Programme Committee of the Dutch Social Democratic Party (PvdA) and the vice president of FNV Young, the youth network of the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions.

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Samir Abdelkrim

Founder of EMERGING Valley, Member of the Digital Strategy Group at the Africa-Europe Foundation and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Samir Abdelkrim

Samir Abdelkrim is a French entrepreneur, author and tech reporter. Passionate about all things digital, he founded EMERGING Valley as an international summit on African innovation to connect tech start-ups with investors, thinkers and decision-makers across continents. He also leads StartupBRICS, a company that provides insights on entrepreneurship in emerging economies. Abdelkrim is a former chronicler on African tech entrepreneurs for Le Monde and has also featured in Huffington Post, Le Point and Les Echos. His book, “Startup Lions”, chronicles his experience travelling the African continent in search of the most interesting and innovative tech start-ups. With French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Summit of the Two Shores of the Mediterranean’ initiative, Abdelkrim was amongst 10 selected to make proposals to relaunch European and Mediterranean cooperation.

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Alberto Alemanno

Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law at HEC Paris, Founder of The Good Lobby, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Alberto Alemanno

Alberto Alemanno is a leading voice on the democratization of the European Union. He’s currently the Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law at HEC Paris and visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges and at the University of Tokyo School of Public Policy. His research has been centred on how the law may be used to improve people’s lives, in particular through the adoption of power-shifting reforms countering social, economic, and political inequalities within European societies and beyond. He is a regular contributor to Le Monde, Bloomberg, Politico Europe, Forbes, and Il Sole 24 Ore, and his scholarly work has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, The Financial Times, as well as Science and Nature.

Dawood Azami
Dawood Azami

Multi-Media Editor (News and Current Affairs) at BBC World Service and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Dawood Azami

Dawood is one of the most promising young journalists and scholars of his generation in the UK. He has been working for the BBC World Service in London as a Senior Broadcast Journalist and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster, where he teaches Globalization, Power and International Governance. He joined the BBC in 1998 and also worked as the BBC World Service Bureau Chief and Editor in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was also a visiting scholar at Ohio State University, USA. He holds three Bachelor’s and three Master’s degrees, including Science, Law, International Relations and Diplomacy. In 2010, Dawood became the youngest person to ever win the biggest award in the BBC, the “Global Reith Award for Outstanding Contribution”. He is also a poet/writer, calligrapher and painter/artist.

Erenik Beqiri
Erenik Beqiri

Film director, screenwriter and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Erenik is an award-winning Albanian film director and screenwriter based in Tirana. His films showcase the inner struggles of characters and highlight the comic, tragic or grotesque aspects of society. His latest short film, “The Van”, was in the running for the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival and shortlisted in the Live Action Short Film category for the 93rd Academy Awards. His earlier short films include “Bon Appetit”, “Alphonso” and “Seed Money”. Erenik’s works have featured in several internationally renowned film festivals, including the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Sarajevo Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Brussels Short Film Festival. He has also participated in the Sarajevo Talent Campus programme at the Sarajevo Film Festival as a screenwriter.

Nicolas Brien
Nicolas Brien

Entrepreneur and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Nicolas Brien is an entrepreneur, investor and board member. He is a vibrant advocate of EU tech sovereignty and has chaired the European Startup Network, the most influential industry group representing start-ups in Brussels. Brien sits on the boards of companies and foundations in Europe and Asia, including Heritage, Vidacity, Tilder and France Alzheimer. After successfully restructuring EuraTechnologies, Europe’s largest startup incubator, he entered into stealth mode and has been working on a green tech start-up project. He previously led France Digitale, Europe’s largest start-up organisation with over 2,000 start-up members and more than 100 venture capitalists. Prior to joining the digital ecosystem, Brien ran the Direction of Studies at Kantar and was a senior advisor to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem in her role as the spokeswoman of the French government.

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Hala Bugaighis

Co-Founder of Jusoor and 2017 MENA Young Leader

Show more information on Hala Bugaighis

Hala Bugaighis is a lawyer and co-founder of Jusoor, a non-governmental organisation committed to independent policy research and human development projects for women with focus on the economic and social empowerment. As a lawyer with 15 years of experience, Hala focuses on commercial, banking, civil and investment laws, and has a sound understanding of law practice in an international context. Through her private companies, Hala has worked as a consultant to many international companies as well as Libyan private and public entities, focusing on development and capacity building. In 2015, Hala was nominated a UN Women Champion for Women Economic Empowerment – an initiative that aims to improve women’s economic standing and potential around the world.

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Malcolm Byrne

Irish Senator for the Cultural and Educational Panel and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Malcolm Byrne

Malcolm Byrne is an Irish politician for the centrist Fianna Fáil party (ALDE) and served in local government before entering parliament. He is his party’s spokesperson on further and higher education, research, innovation and science. He speaks and writes regularly on regulating technology as well as the importance of the arts, sport and community volunteerism. He served on the Senate Brexit Committee. Previously, Malcolm worked as the head of communications and public affairs at the Higher Education Authority, the statutory agency in Ireland that allocates public funding to higher education and advises the government on higher education and research policy. Having worked for various lobbying and representative organisations throughout his career, Byrne was also the first commercial manager at, Ireland’s most successful property website. Outside of his professional career, he has completed 37 marathons, including another Dublin marathon last week.

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Geert Cami

Co-Founder and Secretary General of Friends of Europe, and Co-Founder and Co-Secretary General of the Africa-Europe Foundation

Show more information on Geert Cami

Geert Cami co-founded Friends of Europe, the action-oriented think tank, in 1999. As Secretary General, Geert mainly deals with the strategic development of Friends of Europe, he coordinates the work of the high-level Boards involved in the governance of the organisation and chairs the Leadership meetings. He oversees both the financial health and the successful running of the organisation and its flagship initiatives, and focuses on the expansion and the activation of Friends of Europe’s vast network of trustees, European young leaders and other senior political, corporate, media and societal contacts and partners throughout the world.

Geert also is a founding member of the Boards of both the Africa-Europe Foundation, and of TownHall Europe (the Davignon Centre for New Leadership).

Geert headed the European conference organising, press relations and publishing company Forum Europe for more than ten years, and managed the revival of one of Belgium’s finest architectural examples of Art Nouveau, after creating La Maison de l’Europe in the prestigious 100-year-old Bibliothèque Solvay.

At the outset of his career, Geert worked for a few years in the humanitarian office (ECHO) at the European Commission, as deputy in the newly set-up information and communications unit. His focus was mainly on raising the profile of the EU’s humanitarian efforts throughout the world, through publications and media initiatives such as exhibitions, television debates or Humanitarian Days in Member States.

He also worked for two music programmes at Belgian public Radio 1, and very briefly as a teacher and TV journalist.

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Edoardo Camilli

Co-Founder & CEO at Hozint - Horizon Intelligence and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Edoardo Camilli

A young entrepreneur and security expert, Edoardo started working as a political and security risk consultant after graduating from the University of Bologna. In 2010, he established the International Security Observer, a web-based think tank seeking to foster the next generation of security experts. At the time, he was also working as a research analyst at the Italian Institute of Strategic Studies Niccolò Machiavelli, where his activities focused on insurgency, intelligence, national security policies and organised crime. Edoardo is the co-founder of Hozint (Horizon Intelligence), a consulting firm providing location-based media and social media monitoring services on political, safety and security risks. He is frequently interviewed on security issues by media in Italy and across Europe.

Alessandra Cardaci
Alessandra Cardaci

Lead Partnership Manager at Debating Europe

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Pronouns: she/her
Alessandra is the Lead Partnership Manager at Debating Europe. She has an international multidisciplinary background with a focus on EU affairs, holding a joint Master’s degree in European studies at the University of Bath and Sciences Po Paris. She has solid and successful experience in project management, business development and communication, having worked for the European Commission, as well as European and American not-for-profit organisations in Brussels and Berlin. She believes in the power of network, community, constructive criticism and cooperation. Alessandra speaks Italian, English and French fluently.

Matthew Caruana Galizia
Matthew Caruana Galizia

Investigative Journalist and Lead Engineer for the Paradise Papers Investigation and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Matthew Caruana Galizia

Matthew is a renowned Maltese journalist and software engineer with a distinguished career that spans over a decade. Having previously worked for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), he co-founded the organisation’s Data & Research Unit in 2014 and was a lead engineer on six major investigations, namely Offshore Leaks, Swiss Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks, Fatal Extraction, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. The Unit’s core work on the Panama Papers notably won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2017. He left the organisation in 2018 to continue working on the case around the assassination of his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Francesca Cavallo
Francesca Cavallo

Bestselling author of “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”, Founder & CEO of Undercats and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40) 

Show more information on Francesca Cavallo

Francesca Cavallo is a bestselling author of children’s books, entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Undercats Media. She is the co-creator of ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’, a collection of 100 tales of extraordinary women that has become a publishing sensation. Cavallo’s career began in theatre, where she worked as both a manager for a theatre company and as a playwright. In 2012, she moved to California to co-found a children’s media start-up called Timbuktu Labs, Inc. Since then, she has authored nine picture books that have been translated into more than 47 languages. Her most recent international bestseller is the children’s book ‘Doctor Li and the Crown-wearing Virus’.

Armin Cerkez
Armin Čerkez

Founder & CEO of Youth Power and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Armin Čerkez

Armin founded Youth Power, an influential Bosnian NGO which pushes for non-violence, human rights and tolerance in the country. The inspirational work he did on Program Y led to the inclusion of gender-based violence prevention in school curricula. Coming from a region that has historically suffered from religious violence, Armin has championed the need for more inter-faith dialogue. He has also brought his message directly to citizens, providing lessons to prevent alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and violence in schools.

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Xavier Damman

Founder & CEO of OpenCollective and Co-Founder of Storify and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Xavier Damman

Xavier is an engineer in computer science who is passionate about the digital renaissance. In 1999, while still at secondary school, he founded Tribal, a site that gathered student content from around Belgium for publication in a magazine that was distributed to 30,000 students nationwide. Ten years later, he co-founded Storify, a social media curation platform that enables users to create stories or timelines using content from social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Storify is now used by top brands, organisations and publishers around the world, including CNN, the New York Times, the United Nations and the White House. More recently, he co-founded OpenCollective, a company that enables groups to collect and spend money transparently without having to create a new bank account.

Ciaran Devane
Sir Ciarán Devane

Chair of Irish Health Service Executive, Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Sir Ciarán Devane

Sir Ciarán Devane is the Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University. He also chairs the Irish health service and serves as a Trustee of the British-Irish Association. A chemical engineer by training, Devane held a 20-year career in industry and management consulting before becoming chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support and subsequently chief executive of the British Council. Notably knighted for services to cancer patients he has served on the boards of NHS England and Social Finance Limited.

Stevan Dojčinović
Stevan Dojčinović

Investigative reporter, Editor-in-Chief of Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Stevan Dojčinović

Stevan is a Serbian reporter, specialising in the investigation of organised crime, corruption, privatisation deals and money laundering. He is the Editor-in-Chief of KRIK and the Regional Editor of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) for the Balkans, prior to which he was the founding editor-in-chief of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia. The author of “Šarić”, a book which dissects the role of the Balkan mafia in international cocaine smuggling, Steven also teaches journalists how to collect and analyse business data and property records. He has received national and international recognition for his journalistic work, most notably as the recipient of the Knight International Journalism Award, the CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism and the Serbian National Award for Investigative Reporting. He was also a member of the award-winning OCCRP investigative team that uncovered links of the former Serbian government to organised crime.

Lukasz Dziekonski
Lukasz Dziekonski

CEO and Managing Partner of Montis Capital Fund and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Lukasz Dziekonski

Lukasz is the CEO and Founding Partner of Montis Capital Fund. There, Lukasz oversees the formulation of financial and operational strategies. Previously, he was head of the Marguerite Fund office for the Central and Eastern Europe and member of the management board for the Marguerite Fund 2020 for Energy, Climate Change and Infrastructure in Luxembourg. He is also on the supervisory board of Pomeranka Development, InvestGas and Energa Operator in Poland, and of PZU Ukraine Insurance Company and Kredobank, also in Ukraine. Lukasz began his career as an adviser in the European Parliament, focusing on energy policy and security as well as EU relations with Russia and Ukraine.

Tomáš Ignác Fénix
Tomáš Ignác Fénix

Farmer & Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Tomáš Ignác Fénix

Tomáš Ignác is the Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers – the voice of Europe’s next generation of farmers towards the European institutions. He also runs a 50-ha organic fruit and wine family farm in southern Moravia and cooperates with agricultural and environmental institutions as part of his farm business. The motivation to farm in this less favoured region is a holistic approach to (re-)build the countryside. Previously, Tomáš actively engaged in the NGO Antikomplex, working on the German Czech reconciliation. In addition, he led the LGBT Christian community called Logos for four years. His ambition is to advocate for a sustainable agricultural policy and a strong bond of the European nations and between rural areas and cities.

Liza Gashi
Liza Gashi

Kosovar Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Liza Gashi

A Kosovar innovator and entrepreneur, Liza is shaping public discourse around diaspora and civic engagement. As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, she advocates for the advancement of Kosovo’s policies, legislation and institutional approaches regarding diaspora engagement. She founded the Kosovar committee for the United World Colleges (UWC), a global movement that promotes education as a force to unite people, nationals and cultures, where she served as chairwoman for over a decade. Liza is well known as the Founder and former executive director of GERMIN, an NGO that uses technology and virtual channels to connect and engage with the diaspora community to advance the socio-economic development and democratisation of the Western Balkan region. Additionally, Liza is also the Co-Founder and former managing director of, a crowdsourcing digital engagement and diplomacy platform that connects Kosovars to the world and vice versa to promote Kosovo’s statehood internationally.

Hera Hussain
Hera Hussain

Founder of CHAYN and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Hera Hussain

Hera is the Founder and CEO of CHAYN – a global non-profit that creates resources on the web to address gender-based violence. CHAYN’s multilingual resources, designed with, not for survivors, have reached more than 500 000 people. Raised in Pakistan and living in the UK, Hera committed early to tackling violence against women. She believes in using the power of open-source technology, trauma-informed design and hope-filled framing to solve the world’s pressing issues. Hera is an Ashoka Fellow, and was on the Forbes 30 Under 30 and MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 list.

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Benedek Jávor

Head of Representation of Budapest to the EU and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Benedek Jávor

Jávor is a Hungarian environmentalist, who currently heads the Representation of Budapest to the EU. He is former member of the European Parliament, during which time he focused on the policy areas of climate and environment, energy, anti-corruption and Roma inclusion. As an MEP, he was a founding member of the Dialogue for Hungary party and served as the first vice-chair of the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. As a former member of parliament in the Hungarian National Assembly, Jávor served as leader of the Hungarian opposition party, Politics Can Be Different, and chair of the Sustainable Development Committee for most of his mandate. Prior to his career in politics, Jávor was a professor and lecturer in environmental law and has authored several articles and publications on sustainable development. He is also a founding member of Védegylet (Protect the Future), an NGO which aims to raise awareness of global environmental threats.

Photo of Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica

Deputy Speaker of the Latvian parliament, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica

A Latvian politician, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica is a Deputy Speaker of the Saeima, the Latvian parliament, where she sits on the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Committee of European Affairs. She serves as a Head of the Latvian Delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Previously, Kalniņa-Lukaševica held numerous posts at the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including as the parliamentary secretary, in which role she was responsible for ensuring cooperation between the ministry, the Latvian parliament and the European Parliament. She has also represented the Latvian government at the EU Foreign Affairs Council meetings of development and trade ministers. Kalniņa-Lukaševica started her professional career at Jurmala’s city council and then went on to work at the Strategic Analysis Commission of the President of Latvia, where she served as an advisor to the president.

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Dharmendra Kanani

Prior to joining Friends of Europe, Dharmendra Kanani was director of policy at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). He was the England director at the Big Lottery Fund, the largest independent funder in the UK and fourth largest in the world. Dharmendra has held senior positions in the public and voluntary sectors and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.

André Loesekrug-Pietri
André Loesekrug-Pietri

Chairman and Scientific Director of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI) and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on André Loesekrug-Pietri

André Loesekrug-Pietri is an entrepreneur and has held leadership positions in private equity, government and industry. He is currently the Chairman of JEDI, which aims to accelerate Europe’s leadership by financing and nurturing the development of breakthrough technologies. He previously served as a special advisor to the French Minister of Defence, where he was responsible for European defence policy, as well as technology and innovation, prior to which he has 15 years of experience in private equity and venture capital. Loesekrug-Pietri is a lecturer at Sciences Po and a regular columnist at several international media outlets. Having studied aerospace engineering, he is also a private pilot and Colonel with the French Air Force People’s Reserve.

Talitha Muusse
Talitha Muusse

Chief Impact Officer at Blikverruimers, Founder of Energieboot and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Dutch businesswoman and entrepreneur passionate about sustainability and innovation, Talitha is involved with a number of social initiatives. She launched Blikverruimers, a training programme and recruitment selection agency for young professionals in the Netherlands, who aspire to become business leaders. She is also the driving force behind Energieboot, a leadership programme for young professionals developing sustainable energy projects. As one of the faces of the Coalition-Y movement, a partnership of youth, trade union and climate organisations, Talitha promotes youth participation in society. She also regularly appears on talk shows and previously hosted the current affairs TV programme, Op1. She started her career at MVO Nederland, an organisation which guides companies in corporate social responsibility, where she became the youngest member to sit on a supervisory board in the Netherlands nearly a decade ago. Talitha is also Member of the Advisory Board at the research institute TNO.

Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke

Founder & Managing Director of Women's Worldwide Web (W4), Senior Fellow for Women, Peace and Security at Friends of Europe and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke

Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke is Founder & CEO of, a social enterprise dedicated to protecting girls’ and women’s human rights and promoting their empowerment around the world, with a focus on Sustainable Development Goal 5b: harnessing technologies. Nefesh-Clarke worked in human rights and development in Africa and Asia at Human Rights Watch, UNICEF, Enfants d’Asie, before founding W4. Named a “Women in IT Role Model” by the European Commission and one of the “Inspiring Fifty” women leaders in Europe’s technology sector, Nefesh-Clarke is a board member of the Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI), which aims to advance the work of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. She is also a Senior Fellow for Friends of Europe’s Connect Europe initiative, and a member of the advisory board of UN Women France.

Aleksandar Nikoloski
Aleksandar Nikoloski

Vice-President of the Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Aleksandar Nikoloski

A Member of the Assembly of North Macedonia, Aleksandar is the Vice-President of the country’s main opposition party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). Committed to tackling corruption and pursuing the country’s EU membership, he serves as the Chairman of the National European Integration Council, in which role he facilitates the country’s EU accession talks. Aleksandar is a Vice-President of the European People’s Party group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), where he also sits on the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. He previously served as vice president of PACE and first vice-chairperson of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, as well as the Monitoring Committee. Prior to his entry in politics, Aleksandar was the secretary of FRESTA, a programme led by the Danish Foreign Ministry to promote the NGO community and interethnic dialogue in south-eastern Europe.

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Adam Nyman

Director of Citizen Outreach and Engagement at Friends of Europe

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Adam is the Director of Citizen Outreach and Engagement at Friends of Europe. He is responsible for the online citizen-driven discussion platform Debating Europe, which he co-founded in 2011. He has extensive experience in digital media start-ups, including the launch of the Brussels-based newswire service, which he merged into The Parliament Magazine, where he was the Managing Director. Adam speaks fluent English and Italian.

Marko Pavić
Marko Pavić

Chair of the Croatian National Parliament Committee on Regional Development and European Union Funds and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Having previously held the positions of minister for labour and pension scheme and minister for regional development and EU funds, Marko Pavić is now chairing the Committee on Regional Funds and EU Funds at the Croatian National Parliament. Before entering the world of politics, Pavić dedicated his time to physics and oceanography. After finishing his studies, he travelled to Antarctica to study climate change developments. Among the various high-level positions he has held over the years, Pavić has worked as an Independent consultant for EU project development and has been involved in numerous organisational and educational development programmes.

Cristina Pozzi

Co-Founder and CEO at Treccani Futura and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Cristina is an Italian businesswoman and social entrepreneur with a passion for emerging technologies and a goal to ensure everyone has access to a digital future. She is the CEO of Tercanni Futura, an Italian cultural EdTech hub and the product of the Treccani Scuola acquisition of Impactscool. Cristina co-founded Treccani to raise awareness about innovative education, stimulate reflection on the ethics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and encourage citizens to adopt a more forward-thinking approach to technological change. She led Impactscool as CEO for five years, prior to which she co-founded Wish Days, where she served as general manager and a board member. Her motto, “the future is open source”, acknowledges that the future is shaped by and accessible to everyone. A published author, Cristina is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Institute for Ethical AI in Education and an Independent Advisor on the Advisory Board of Fondo Italiano d’Investimento SGR.

Marko Russiver
Marko Russiver

Founder and CEO of Grantful and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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An Estonian designer and innovator, Marko is passionate about the open sharing of knowledge and its capabilities to shape the future. Having most recently founded Grantful, he helped launched a global online hackathon series, Hack the Crisis and The Global Hack, to address challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Marko delivered a TED talk on how the initiative could create solutions for the post-pandemic world. He is the Co-Founder and former CEO of Guaana, an online platform that connects scientists and researchers to break down barriers between disciplines. Marko is a Member of Accelerate Estonia’s Advisory Board, the Estonian Founders Society and the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs’ mental health think tank. He has worked closely with research organisations and government institutions, including CERN, the European Space Agency, Dubai Future Foundation and the European Commission, to empower researchers and innovators. Marko previously worked as a creative and art director at branding and service design companies.

Tamara Srzentić
Tamara Srzentić

Former Montenegrin minister for public administration, digital society and media, and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Tamara served as the minister for public administration, digital society and media in Montenegro, in which role she advocated for public administration reform, digital transformation and the development of e-government services. Prior to this, Tamara was integral to the launch of the Government of California’s Digital Innovation Office, established to improve the state’s digital services. In this capacity, she led the COVID-19 digital response, the Policy Design Lab and the Inclusive by Design initiative. She is also the Co-Founder and former deputy director of the Office of Innovation at the California Health and Human Services Agency, where she was responsible for driving innovation to provide critical healthcare and social services. She has been involved with a number of organisations and programmes, including Alchemist, CivicMakers, Code for America, New America and most recently, Regional School of Public Administration (ReSPA), where she provides support for public administration reform in the Western Balkans.

Laura Sullivan
Laura Sullivan

Executive Director of WeMove Europe

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Laura Sullivan is the Executive Director of WeMove Europe, a campaigning organisation that connects the activism of people to opportunities for deep and lasting change. She spent the last two decades as a campaigner advocating for social and environmental justice. Laura started out at the European Parliament working as an MEP Assistant with a focus on the Environmental and Development Committees. She then joined the Trade Union Confederation Education International managing programmes on health and education in Asia and the Caribbean. Laura subsequently spent ten years with ActionAid International running the campaigns in Europe and then as Regional Director for Europe and the Americas. She has an MA in Governance and Development specialising in civil society participation. Her main interests lie in systemic change thinking and feminist leadership. She has a passion for all things related to music, language and justice.

Ece Temelkuran
Ece Temelkuran

Award-winning Turkish novelist, political commentator and author of "How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship" and "Together: 10 Choices for a Better Now"

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Ece Temelkuran is an award-winning Turkish novelist, a political thinker, and a public speaker whose work has appeared in the Guardian, New York Times, Le Monde, La Stampa, New Statesman, and Der Spiegel, among several international media outlets. She won the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book award for her novel Women Who Blow On Knots and the Ambassador Of New Europe Award for her book Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed book How to Lose a Country. Together: A Manifesto Against the Heartless World, her latest book has been published in several languages and recently shortlisted for the Terzani Award in Italy. Ece Temelkuran lived in Beirut, Tunis, and Paris, to write her novels. She was a visiting fellow at Saint Anthony’s College Oxford to write Deep Mountain: Across The Armenian Turkish Divide. For the last five years, she has lived in Zagreb after the military coup attempt in Turkey in 2016. Currently, she is a fellow at The New Institute, Hamburg, working on a project “A New Vocabulary for 21st Century Progressives”. She runs, a digital communication project based on her book Together. She is on the advisory board of Progressive International and a regular contributor to Internazionale magazine.

Ruben van Zwieten
Ruben van Zwieten

Reverend, Founder of De Nieuwe Poort and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Ruben van Zwieten is a Dutch pastor and social entrepreneur, well-known for building bridges between the financial sector and spirituality. As a pastor, he fills in for ministers, marries couples and baptises babies. As a Co-Founder of the Zingeving on the Zuidas project (finding meaning in the Amsterdam financial sector), he aims to discuss a more human and moral perspective on the financial sector with its employees. Recently he opened De Nieuwe Poort (The New Gate), a modern community house in Amsterdam and Rotterdam dedicated to philosophy, meeting people and building a kinder society. Van Zwieten is an advisor at Goldschmeding Foundation, sits on the board of the VUMC Foundation and serves as a member of the Dutch Monitoring Commission for banks.

Caroline Walerud
Caroline Walerud

Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of AirForestry and Volumental, and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Caroline Walerud

Caroline is a Swedish entrepreneur at the helm of deep tech and green tech start-ups. She co-founded AirForestry to reinvent sustainable forestry by enabling better biodiversity, gentler thinning and higher uptake of carbon dioxide through the use of electric drones. She is also the Co-Founder of Volumental, using 3D scanning and AI to shape a future free from sizes and creating a world where every body fits, and a Partner at Walerud Ventures, a pre-seed investment firm with a focus on green tech start-ups. Having advised the Swedish government on its start-up policy, she continues to promote entrepreneurship as a Member of the Sting Incubator Advisory Board, Prince Daniel’s Fellow and mentor at Creative Destruction Lab, a deep tech incubator. Caroline has been named the Swedish Supertalent of the Year and among Sweden’s top serial entrepreneurs under 40 by the country’s Business Week magazine.



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