Imperative change: catching up with the future

Past event

Imperative change catching up with the future


Day 1

The lessons of history and forecasts for the future were twin themes at the opening day of the second 2019 European Young Leaders session programme, held in Barcelona.

Dominique Moïsi, Co-Founder of the Institut Français des Relations Internationals (IFRI), told the group that the world faces geopolitical change that is revolutionary, in that China’s rise signifies an end to western global hegemony; but also evolutionary, given that a bipolar balance continues, with China replacing the Soviet Union as a rival for the United States.

Europe, Moïsi said, has to choose whether it will be at the table or on the menu, with internal divisions making the latter scenario more likely. “We Europeans have to realise that we live in a world where we have marginalised ourselves and where it is essential to define ourselves and our place,” he told the group.

Attributing the rise of divisive populist forces in Europe to “anger, fear, nostalgia”, Moïsi said Europe had to learn from its history to defend the gains made since the Second World War. “We’ve lost track of what is at stake,” he argued. “We have lost track of what freedom is … we have lost track that Europe is about peace and reconciliation.”

That theme was picked up in the following session by Ryan Heath, Senior Political Editor at POLITICO. “People aren’t killing each other anymore, so people should be f**king grateful,” he insisted.

That session, however, looked forward to predict how the European Union will develop over the next five years following the election of a new European Parliament, the appointment of a new European Commission and the ongoing Brexit process.

Stephan Petermann, architect and Co-Founder of Eurolab, a collective of European creatives, underscored the importance of better branding for the European project.

He presented a video that highlighted the benefits citizens get from an EU membership that costs them no more than a Netflix subscription.

EU officials are too defensive in their efforts to promote the project, a natural reaction given that they have been “battered for some decades,” Petermann said. “You cannot submit to pessimism, you always have to be progressive, you cannot get away with sitting back and letting things go,” he insisted.

Innovators within the European institutions need support because “they are in a massive minority”, Heath said. He urged a renewal of personnel to bring in more original thinking to promote Europe.

As for predicting the future, Petermann believes the EU faced “March weather, which means you can have every type of weather every day.”

Several participants agreed, however, that one issue was going to dominate the coming years. “The real danger for the EU is climate, the EU talks the talk on climate, but it doesn’t do as much as it tells itself it does,” Heath contended. “The EU’s been a little bit complacent on climate and that’s going to be the test that 18-25-year olds will judge it on.”

For the final session of the day, the subject was taxes and how they can be used reduce growing inequality without stifling growth. The issue of cross-border tax avoidance and evasion by multinationals, in the digital age, loomed large.

“Countries recognise that they cannot tackle this issue of cross-border tax-avoidance by themselves,” said Grace Perez-Navarro, Deputy Director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. “There has been a very fundamental change in the visibility of this issue and the political momentum behind it.”

Young leaders highlighted the importance of tax education, to make people aware of the social and economic value of paying their taxes – as is common in Germany and Nordic countries – rather than having a situation “where it is cool to avoid taxes”.

As the EU strives to create a digital single market, Dmitri Jegorov, Deputy-Secretary for Tax and Customs Policy at the Estonian Ministry of Finance, said a common solution to taxing digital companies and digital operations is essential.

“One EU-wide solution is much better than 28 separate solutions. If not, it’s not going to be a digital single market, it’s going to be a digital nightmare,” he concluded.

Day 2

The programme on day two of the European Young Leaders’ seminar in Barcelona was incredibly diverse. The topics under discussion ranged from the importance of language in structuring our thought processes to the impact of tourism on Europe’s cities; from the need for new forms of political leadership to promoting sustainability and inclusion in innovation.

Kicking off the day amid the modernist surroundings of Hospital de Sant Pau was Lera Boroditsky, cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego. She looked at how different languages can affect speakers’ way of thinking, how languages evolve from generation to generation and how politicians can use language to manipulate and mobilise opinion.

Populist politicians, for example, can use metaphors on immigration to trigger images and ideas in voters’ minds. “A lot of ideas can sneak in through metaphors, because they already exist in people’s minds and the metaphor is just bringing them out,” she said. “That’s a very dangerous thing when these metaphors invite us to use bad ideas that are already floating around our minds.”

Countering populist messages through greater connectivity and the empowerment of citizens was a major theme in the panel discussion on the theme of ‘The Age of Empowerment and the demand of a new type of leadership.’

“The gap between citizens and the elite is filled with right-wing extremists and their success is our weakness,” said panellist Edward Strasser, Co-Founder and CEO at the Austrian Innovation in Politics Institute. “The democratic spectrum has to be improved to ensure that our kids don’t live in an authoritarian environment.”

Participants focused on the need for improved relations between politicians and voters and for European institutions to provide responses to citizens concerns. “If we manage to make the next five years of the European legislation the years of sustainability – climate and environmental sustainability, and human and social sustainability – we will reconnect the continent,” said Cristina Gallach, High Commissioner for the UN’s 2030 Agenda of Spain. “This is the critical vision that will end well.”

In the afternoon, the Young Leaders split into two groups to review hot socio-economic issues: how to re-shape the consumer economy and how to develop sustainable travel to counter the tourism floods that are turning some parts of the continent into ‘Theme Park Europe’.

There were calls for better planning and regulation to prevent expansion of mass tourism that is forcing citizens out of their homes in favour of holiday rental accommodation and to limit the environmental impact of travel. However, Javier Gandara, Director General for easyJet Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, insisted that regulation should not go too far.

“I truly believe aviation has improved life and society overall (…) aviation brings people and places closer to each other,” he said. “If you are going to limit the rights of people to fly, that is an elitist agreement because only the very rich people will be able to fly.”
For the final session of the day, the Young Leaders broke into five round-table groups to review aspects of innovation: from data-sharing, to financing social entrepreneurship and promoting cross-pollination. “This is a new movement of people that are looking at social innovation,” explained Markus Freiburg, CEO and Co-Founder of Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE). “If you think about the future of Europe, social innovation can have a very important role.”

European Young Leaders (EYL40) Barcelona 2019

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Not only has our world been changing at a rapid rate, but the rate of change itself has also grown significantly faster over the past two centuries. This accelerating change has a critical impact on our society. It has become increasingly apparent that the countless manifestations of science and technology pervading our world are intrinsically linked to the social, economic and cultural outlooks of societies and individuals alike.

Ten years ago, artificial intelligence sounded like science fiction, and its prevalence in political discourse was barely perceptible. Today, however, AI has a fixed place in our reality, massively impacting all aspects of our daily lives. Code-driven systems have spread to more than half of the world’s inhabitants in ambient information and connectivity, offering previously unimagined opportunities and unprecedented threats.

Though we live in an ever-developing world, the linear nature of humans — and structures that were built for a different era — have not changed. The technological revolution has coincided with surging inequality, populism and debt. Additionally, we are being increasingly confronted with the devastating effects of climate change, ones that demand urgent and drastic solutions. The inadequacy of governmental responses to counteract threats related to climate change and the negative effects wrought by globalisation has left its citizens sceptical of politics and the future.

A new political leadership cycle is on the horizon as the world faces major demographic changes. The millennial generation is impatiently awaiting a change in the current leadership dynamic; it is estimated that by 2025, millennials will comprise three-quarters of the global workforce. The population tidal wave predicted to strike Africa and Asia in the coming decades will completely reshape the global economy. In the meantime, on the European level, the policy choices that will be made by the new EU mandate will profoundly impact Europe for the foreseeable future.

This crossroad undeniably offers opportunities. There is a strong desire for a new political structure and a new type of leadership: one that is more agile, less linear and is able to keep up with the pace of change, both in the short and long term. This is a chance for both Europe and for European leaders to play a prominent role in this transition, to advocate a long-term vision and to be a force of positive strength in these volatile times. How can Europe govern smarter by using a new form of effective leadership? What critical skills and abilities do leaders need in today’s unpredictable world? How can Europe take the lead in bringing about imperative change, especially when it comes to climate change?

This Barcelona seminar is the second of a series of meetings forming the foundation of the 2019 edition of the European Young Leaders programme. Its themes have been chosen to reflect the core work of Friends of Europe for this year and the years to come.

Our intention is to practice what we preach on environmental matters. As such, we offer a menu comprised mostly of vegetarian options to offset our carbon footprint.

Cover image credits: Tom Mrazek/Flickr



Over lunch: Welcome buffet lunch
Scene setting: Teachings from past times
Expand Scene setting: Teachings from past times

Putting change in perspective

For this session, Dominique Moïsi will share his perspective on today’s societal issues and the ever-accelerating pace of change. His extensive experience in European politics and world geopolitics will provide the basis for discussing the importance of today’s shifts and how they compare to those from the past.

Having co-founded the Institut Français des relations internationales, Dominique is a household name thanks in part to his regularly published op-eds, essays and books.

Coffee break
Plenary: Sunshine, rain or fog?
Expand Plenary: Sunshine, rain or fog?

Europe’s 5-year forecast succeeding the European elections

After lots of heated discussions following Brexit on the importance of the European project, it was up to the European population to voice their verdict in May of this year. These elections are not always seen as the most engaging, as the various workings of the European Union are often perceived as impenetrable and undemocratic. But one of the biggest surprises of this year’s elections was the resurgence of voter interest. Turnout across the bloc surpassed 50 percent, a major jump from the 2014 election, in which just 42.6 percent of eligible voters took part.

And the European elections really do matter—over the past decades, an alliance of the centre-right and centre-left have held a comfortable majority in the Parliament, which has resulted in their assignment into key positions in the European Council and European Commission. With these elections, the voters have decided to give more seats to smaller, more passionate parties like the Greens and a variety of populist groups. Given the declining support for centre parties throughout Europe, rising populists on both the left and right have been provided with an opportunity to advance in European politics. The feared populist wave was more of a large ripple, but populists did very well in major countries where they are in power, like Italy, Hungary and Poland, which invites reflection on a number of questions.

What can we learn from both the campaign and the outcome of the European elections? What are the biggest concerns of European citizens? What is the effect of the outcome of the European elections on the existing power balance? What will this entail for the course of the European Union going forward?


Stephan Petermann

Architect and founder of Eurolab

Ryan Heath

Senior Political Editor at POLITICO


Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

Coffee break
Plenary: 'Taxes, taxes, taxes - The rest is all bullsh*t'
Expand Plenary: 'Taxes, taxes, taxes - The rest is all bullsh*t'

The effect of tax on welfare and inequality

The above title is a quote from historian Rutger Bregman, spoken at this year’s Davos meeting in response to the global elite’s attempt to solve inequality through philanthropy. Although his language is colourful, the Dutchman does have a point: when talking about inequalities and the ever-growing gap between rich and poor, taxation is not a component that can be ignored. Economists consider, based on the statistics taken from tax havens such as Bermuda or Ireland, that 40% of multinational companies’ profits avoid taxation. EU member states and developing countries are the main victims of this method: Europe loses 20% of its corporate taxes.

Current tax regulation is not only bewildering and outdated, but it also contains lots of loopholes, making taxation un-transparent, unfair and more prone to tax evasion. Offshore Leaks, Lux Leaks, the Panama and the Bahamas Papers are some examples of scandals well-known for having exploited secretive offshore tax regimes.

The power to tax is in the hands of the member states, with the EU having only limited competence. But are current tax policies, designed at a time when the nation-state was all-powerful, still appropriate now that globalisation is rapidly eroding national borders? How can we create a transparent tax framework and make sure that everyone pays their fair share?


Grace Perez-Navarro

Deputy Director of the OECD's Centre for Tax Policy and Administration

Dmitri Jegorov

Deputy Secretary-General for Tax and Customs Policy, Estonian Ministry of Finance


Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

Continue to DAY 2
Conversation with EYLs
Expand Conversation with EYLs

A cognitive scientist at UCSD, Lera Boroditsky is an expert in the relationships between the mind, world and language. She’s at the forefront of the Theory of Linguistics Relativity.

During this conversation, she will share her insights on the little-known importance that language holds our everyday lives. By shaping our perspective of abstract concepts, it is clear from Lera’s findings that language has a considerable bearing on our very reasoning.


Coffee break
Plenary: The age of empowerment
Expand Plenary: The age of empowerment

And the demand of new type of leadership

We live in the age of the empowered individual. New technologies have empowered citizens not only as consumers but also as political actors. New grassroot leaders are bypassing traditional hierarchal institutions, instead using new technologies and social media to focus the interest of the public on their agendas and activities and, in doing so, have reached a huge global audience. These new leaders often challenge the current power balance and advocate for political, social and organisational change.

This new type of leader seems to be stepping in in the ever-growing public trust-gap between government and citizens. As a result of citizens becoming more distrustful, political participation has declined and governments finds it difficult to command the legitimacy and respect to govern effectively for the greater good. The lack of effective governance creates in turn further distrust, capturing this relation in a downward spiral. Additionally, we are being increasingly confronted with the devastating effects of climate change, ones that demand urgent and drastic solutions.

The traditional hierarchy of the representative democracy, based on an elite of decision-makers, is thus increasingly struggling to survive in a very complex and volatile world. The era of political consent is vanishing, not only within the political arena, but also in stepping outside of traditional structures. The new incoming generation is facing a tipping point; a new form of leadership needs to emerge in order to put the way we manage our societies and climate change back on track.

What place can we offer the empowered individual within the new power balance? What kind of leadership is needed to create the consensus and uniformity that is needed to move forward in a hyper-individualised society? Is there a need for decentralisation or a centralisation of power? How can leaders address social discord, division, distrust and loss of control?


Cristina Gallach

Former Spanish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and former Under Secretary General of the United Nations

Edward Strasser

Co-Founder and CEO at the Innovation in Politics Institute

Ana Palacio

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank

Daniel Romero-Abreu

President and Founder of Thinking Heads


Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

Parallel sessions
Expand Parallel sessions

The future of consumerism: how to re-shape the consumer economy

Key shifts in economics, demographics, technology and media are completely transforming the consumer landscape, and with it, the essence of how we buy. Who the consumer is, in addition to how, where, and even why they shop, is changing rapidly. The way our stores, shopping streets and public spaces look is constantly undergoing constant change. Mobile technology, social commerce, location-based services, big data and a flood of other technologies on the rise are even more influencing the consumer and bridging the gap between the product and the buyer.

On the other hand, consumers are increasingly aware of their negative impact on the planet and seeking to engage with ethical brands to appease their guilt and limit the harm they inflict on the environment. A new wave of ethical start-ups is emerging, actively challenging consumer expectations of what a ‘good’ brand is. And larger brands are stepping up too. For instance, Unilever’s global handwashing campaign is attempting to fight preventable diseases in under-developed countries.

In addition, a number of subscription-based services are changing the relationship between the product and the buyer, as the customer must pay a recurring price at regular intervals for access to a product or service such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, among others. The subscription model is a booming field. In recent years, this market has increased from $57 million in sales in 2011 to $2.6 billion in 2016.

What is needed to cope with all of these transformations? How do we make sure that the emergence of the conscious consumer does not succumb to greenwashing or disillusion? As more businesses move to a subscription-based model, should we be worried about privacy with our data and unconscionable contracts?


Álvaro Salvat

General Manager for Spain and Portugal at electric scooter rental company Lime

Anne Lise Kjaer

Futurist specialising on future trends in innovation and business concepts

Martijn Arets

International expert and thinker in the field of emergence and development of the collaborative economy and 2013 European Young Leader


Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe


Theme park Europe: how to move from tourism floods to sustainable travel

Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, as an export category, tourism currently ranks fourth globally after fuels, chemicals and automotive products. For decades, countries and cities have been trying to attract as many tourists as possible, but more and more destinations are reaching a tipping point often referred to as over-tourism.

The nature of tourism has changed from being a service industry, offering flights and hotels, into providing personal experiences like adventure, rejuvenation and fulfilment. More than three in four millennials, for example, would choose to spend money on ‘making memories’ over something material. As cities are transformed into theme parks that cater solely to these experiences, locals have begun to protest. A number of destinations have essentially become too popular for their own good, resulting into anti-tourist protests in cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and Venice.

Ada Colau, who in June 2015 was decisively voted in as Barcelona’s mayor, followed through on early promises to cut down on visitor numbers to the capital, something that city residents rated second only to unemployment as Barcelona’s biggest problem. In 2017, the city adopted a law that pledged to limit the number of beds available in hotels and tourist apartments. With global tourist numbers estimated to increase at an even faster rate, ‘over-tourism’ will become a bigger and bigger issue. As a result of a lack in regulation, governments have been powerless to deal with the overwhelming influence of global tourism platforms such as Airbnb and TripAdvisor.

How can governments, businesses and individuals take responsibility for overcrowding? How can authorities and industry join forces to manage the growth of the sector in a sustainable way?


Javier Gándara

Director General for EasyJet Spain

Samantha Keon

Documentary film maker, producer of ‘Casas Sin Familias’


Ruben van Zwieten

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

Coffee Break
Co-creation: B(l)ooming European innovation
Expand Co-creation: B(l)ooming European innovation

Creating the optimal conditions

Becoming a champion in innovation will create value for all Europeans, generating new jobs, better products and services, while at the same time creating a more competitive European economy. How can we develop effective collaborations and strategies in order to support smart, sustainable and inclusive innovations? How can we tap into our innovative potential to tackle societal challenges? How can we create people-centered innovation, which creates a participatory, practice-based process to find sustainable new strategies for a social and green future?

This session will consist of five breakout groups, headed by European Young Leaders, that will brainstorm on how to turn Europe into a global innovation lab. What policies and programmes will Europe need for long-term prosperity and sustainability? How can we best devise a broad, cross-sectoral innovation policy? What should be done differently for the next EU Framework Programme? How can Europe’s innovation help deliver a climate-neutral economy?

The objective of this session is to come up with ten clear and practical policy recommendations to create optimal conditions to further b(l)oom European innovation and (social) entrepreneurship, which would be signed by the next generation of European leaders.


Sustainable Financing of Social Entrepreneurship

Markus Freiburg

Founder & CEO of Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

European Data Sharing to Further Innovation

Andreas Kunze

Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of Konux and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Inclusion and Diversity in Innovation

Marta Krupinska

Head of Google for Startups UK, Co-Founder of real time pay FinTech start-up FreeUP and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Promoting Crosspollination in Innovation and Education

Alfredo Muñoz

Founder & CEO of ABIBOO Studio and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Making Europe’s Innovation Green and Sustainable

Edvard Glücksman

Partnerships Manager for International Clean Growth and Net Zero at the University of Exeter and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Free time
Evening programme: dinner
Expand Evening programme: dinner

Dinner at Casa Vicens | Gaudí — Built between 1883-1885, this house was the first to be designed by Antoni Gaudí. A young architect at the time, this first masterpiece set the precedent for the mouvement modernisme across Europe.

Originally commissioned by Manel Vicens i Montaner, a stock and currency broker, the house has since undergone several transformations to reach its current layout. Today, the building is a museum celebrating the work of Antoni Gaudí and other architectural wonders.

Continue to DAY 3
Conversations over breakfast: Peer-learning roundtables
Expand Conversations over breakfast: Peer-learning roundtables

Connecting with EYLs and alumni

Over breakfast, four 30-minute short conversations with European Young Leaders run in parallel on issues that matter to them, to gain expertise from this resourceful network. This session will be held at the Hesperia Barcelona Presidente hotel.

Breakfast buffet and session introduction
First round of discussions
Expand First round of discussions

Friends or foes? – The state of affairs between Turkey and the EU

Sophie Nivelle-Cardinale

War Reporter and Filmmaker, Recipient of Prix Albert Londres and Bayeux-Calvados Award and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

European perspective of the Western Balkans - Should the door remain open or just ajar?

Monika Panayotova

CEO of Inno Advisers and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

How gender violence can be prevented through education

Francesca Cavallo

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

A climate law: why every country should have one

Jesse Klaver

Member of the Dutch House of Representatives, Leader of the Dutch green party GroenLinks and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Second round of discussions
Expand Second round of discussions

International Trade and Diplomacy - The tensions between economic and political relationships

Luke Graham

Special advisor on the Union to the UK government and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

The transformation of retail, online vs. offline, independents vs chains, is there a race to be won?

Alex Loizou

Co-Founder & CEO of Trouva and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

How the arts can help strengthen Europe’s sense of community

Julia Hanzl

Artist/Sculptor and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Barcelona’s manifest for more women in leadershiproles

Josep-Maria Gascón

Co-Founder & CEO of Vitaes and Meditech Capital and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Group activity: The social inovation excursion
Expand Group activity: The social inovation excursion

During this part of the programme, the group will visit Barcelona’s El Raval neighbourhood. El Raval has a seedy history, as delinquency, prostitution, and heroine deals reigned supreme during the medieval era. The government decided to ‘clean-up’ El Raval in the 90s and cracked down on prostitution and drug dealing to make space for new public squares.

But even today, given that the area is located just next to the popular La Ramblas street, there is a stark contrast between the rich tourists on the one hand and the much poorer locals on the other hand. In response to gentrification, tourism and cultural diversity, local citizens have started countless projects to breathe new life in the neighbourhood and create dialogue amongst the different communities.

The group will experience the neighbourhood with the help of a surprising guide from Hidden City Tours. This social start-up offers walking tours of Barcelona with one big difference: they exclusively employ guides who are homeless. Their alternative El Raval tour will take us through the daily life of a person who lives on the streets of Barcelona from where they sleep, wash, change clothes and eat to how they look for work.

We will close the tour at our venue for the afternoon, the Bellucci Studios, where the founder of Hidden City Tour, Lisa Grace, will give a short presentation followed by a Q&A about her project.

Lunch and farewell

In addition to the official programme, you will have the option to round off your trip with an informal post-seminar programme in Barcelona.

For those interested, a visit to the exhibition ‘The Zone of Hope’ will be arranged, which will make you travel in time to the year 2038, 2068 and 2093 and see what actually happens when we don’t take action to tackle climate change. During the 30-minute journey, the visitors walk through several 3-D-generated hyperrealistic scenarios, feel hot and cold, and wind gusts, touch ice and watch powerful images that will help them understand what could happen to our most immediate environment as a result of climate change.

Afterwards, we will enjoy a casual dinner at beachside restaurant Carpe Diem.



Lera Boroditsky

Cognitive Scientist at the University of California San Diego

Show more information on Lera Boroditsky

Lera Boroditsky is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD and Editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. She previously served on the faculty at MIT and at Stanford. Boroditsky is known for her research relating to cognitive science, specifically in how language affects the way we think and interact with the world.  One of her main research topics focuses on how people with different linguistic backgrounds act and behave when exposed to certain events.  She was named one of 25 Visionaries changing the world by the Utne Reader, and is also a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell scholar, a recipient of an NSF Career award and an APA Distinguished Scientist lecturer.

Photo of Geert Cami
Geert Cami

Co-Founder and Secretary General

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.

Cristina Gallach
Cristina Gallach

Former Spanish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and former Under Secretary General of the United Nations

Show more information on Cristina Gallach

Prior to her appointment as state secretary, Cristina Gallach was the high commissioner of the Government of Spain for the 2030 Agenda. She previously headed the Equal Opportunities Office of the Council of the European Union in Brussels and has held several positions at the UN, including under-secretary-general, special advisor to the Secretary-General, head of the Department for Public Information and under-secretary general for communications and public information. Gallach has also previously served as head of public relations and spokesperson for the Council of the European Union.

Javier Gándara

Director General for EasyJet Spain

Show more information on Javier Gándara

Javier Gándara is Country Director of easyJet in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, and was appointed Chairman of the Airlines Association (ALA) in 2017. Prior to joining easyJet, Javier worked as Senior Manager for Operations for Spain and Portugal at FedEX. In 2007, he was named Operations Manager for easyJet in Spain, a title he held before his promotion to Country Director. Gándara works for the sustained growth of easyJet in Spain, which is a key market for the airline.

Ryan Heath

Senior Political Editor at POLITICO

Show more information on Ryan Heath

Ryan Heath is perhaps best known for his role as political editor at POLITICO Europe, where he was responsible for steering coverage on the 2019 European elections. Prior to this role, Heath authored POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook column. Having accumulated over 20 years of experience in network television and radio, Heath has contributed to a diverse range of media outlets, of which the BBC, ABC, Euronews and NBC are inclusive. Possessing skills not limited to journalism, Heath has lectured at the University of Oxford, LSE, Maastricht University and Université libre de Bruxelles.

Dmitri Jegorov

Deputy Secretary-General for Tax and Customs Policy, Estonian Ministry of Finance

Show more information on Dmitri Jegorov

Dmitri Jegorov is the Deputy Secretary General for Tax and Customs Policy in the Estonian Ministry of Finance. Prior to this, he worked for the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. Jegorov’s positions have included that of head of the tax department as well as Deputy Director General for all core processes ranging from customer service to criminal investigation. Furthermore, Jegorov is a member of the EU High Level Working Party on Taxes and a board member for both the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) and Estonia’s e-Residency programme.

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 sector and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.

Samantha Keon

Documentary film maker, producer of ‘Casas Sin Familias’

Show more information on Samantha Keon

As Co-Director of Neon Lake Productions, Samantha Keon has worked on short and feature-length documentaries for online and television broadcast. She has also been involved in commercial projects for charities and businesses both in the UK and Spain, and films that she has co-directed have gone on to be selected and win prizes at festivals across Europe. Samantha is especially drawn to stories which preserve the richness of our cultural heritage in times of increasing globalisation and is also a passionate advocate for mental health awareness. Samantha produced and directed the documentary short Casas Sin Familias, a film which set out to explore the dilemma of locals in Barcelona as they weigh the economic necessity of tourism against the desire to preserve their way of life.

Anne Lise Kjaer

Futurist specialising on future trends in innovation and business concepts

Show more information on Anne Lise Kjaer

Anne Lise Kjaer is a renowned futurist and entrepreneur. She holds the honorary title of Copenhagen Goodwill Ambassador and was recently appointed as a member of the International Panel of Experts for Singapore’s Urban Development Authority. Anne uses her design background to create clarity out of the trends that hold the key to the future of innovation and business concepts. In 1988 she founded Kjaer Global, a consultancy that seeks to fuel innovation culture by providing organisations with insights on future trends. Built on a holistic framework for balancing ‘people, planet and purpose’ with profit, Kjaer works with a wide variety of organisations, including Amazon, IKEA, the BBC and UNICEF.

Dominique Moïsi

Co-founder of the Institut français des relations internationales

Show more information on Dominique Moïsi

Dominique Moïsi is a foreign policy analyst specialising in European affairs, the Middle East and transatlantic relations. In 2016, he was appointed Senior Counselor of the Institut Montaigne, a policy think tank based in Paris in 2000. He was founding Member of the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI), of which he served as Deputy Director and Senior Advisor. As the first recipient of the Pierre Keller Visiting Chair in Government at Harvard University, he has garnered extensive academic experience, teaching at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Sciences Po in Paris, the College of Europe in Warsaw (Natolin) and at King’s College London. He is also a prolific writer, having authored The Geopolitics of Emotion , which has been translated into 26 languages. He regularly features in leading newspapers, publishing a monthly column for Project Syndicate and weekly one for Les Echos (France’s leading economic newspaper). His articles have often appeared in Foreign Affairs and the Financial Times.

Ana Palacio
Ana Palacio

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank

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Ana Palacio is an international lawyer specialising in international and European Union law. From 1994 to 2002, she was a member of the European Parliament, where she chaired the Legal Affairs and Internal Market as well as the Citizens Rights, Justice and Home Affairs Committees. Ana Palacio served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain (2002-2004) and was a member of the Spanish Parliament (2004-2006) where she chaired the Joint Committee of the two Houses for European Union Affairs. She has been Senior Vice-President and General Counsel of the World Bank Group and Secretary General of ICSID (2006-2008). Palacio has been a member of the Executive Committee and Senior Vice-President for International Affairs of AREVA (2008-2009) and served on the Council of State of Spain (2012-2018).

Grace Perez-Navarro

Deputy Director of the OECD's Centre for Tax Policy and Administration

Show more information on Grace Perez-Navarro

Grace Perez-Navarro is Deputy Director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. She plays a key role in all of the OECD’s tax work including the tax challenges of digitalisation, the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, improving international tax cooperation, tackling illicit financial flows, promoting better tax policies and engaging developing countries in OECD tax work. She has led the OECD’s work on bank secrecy, e-commerce, harmful tax practices, money laundering, tax crimes, countering bribery of foreign officials, and strengthening all forms of administrative cooperation between tax authorities. Prior to joining the OECD, she held the title of Special Counsel at the IRS Office of the Associate Chief Counsel.

Stephan Petermann
Stephan Petermann

Architect and founder of Eurolab

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Building on an extensive background in architecture and history, Stephan Petermann has established himself as a prominent figure in Europe’s arts & culture scene. He has written for the architecture magazine VOLUME and was previously a member of the EU Reflection Group, a ‘wise men’ council established to stimulate thinking around the future of the European Union. Petermann’s most recent artistic endeavour saw him participate in a collaborative project between the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Chinese Academy for Fine Arts.

Daniel Romero-Abreu

President and Founder of Thinking Heads

Show more information on Daniel Romero-Abreu

Daniel Romero Abreu is the President and Founder of Thinking Heads, a network that connects and positions thought leaders. Thinking Heads has an international reach with delegations in six countries and it is the first strategic consultancy to specialise in the positioning of leaders. Daniel has advised global leaders, CEOs, economists, athletes, writers and thinkers to generate social value. He has given lectures on his methodology to audiences in Spain, the United States, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Guatemala.

Álvaro Salvat

General Manager for Spain and Portugal at electric scooter rental company Lime

Show more information on Álvaro Salvat

Álvaro Salvat the General Manager for Portugal and Spain at Lime, a micro-mobility company offering the rental of scooters and bikes to city dwellers. Having joined the company during its European expansion phase, he played a key role in the company’s market development in the south-west of the continent. Salvat has accumulated over a decade’s experience working in management and conceptual development, holding senior positions at companies focusing on creative design, communications and e-commerce. His ambition is to create more liveable cities by combining a human-centred focus with operational efficiency through innovation.

Edward Strasser

Co-Founder and CEO at the Innovation in Politics Institute

Show more information on Edward Strasser

Edward Strasser heads the Innovation in Politics Awards, a programme he co-founded in a bid to identify and recognise the most ground-breaking political achievements across Europe. With an overall focus on bridge-building projects across the political spectrum, Strasser has initiated several projects, including a press agency for migrant issues. He is also a co-founder of, an Internet-based crowdfunding platform for civil society projects. Alongside these projects, he lectures at the University of Vienna’s Department of Communication. He was previously Secretary General of the Austrian Association of Public Relations Professionals and a member of the staff of the Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party in Austria.



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