A new generation of European Young Leaders is joining our ground-breaking, unbound and passionate network. Like their predecessors, they come from a wide array of backgrounds and are ready to share their experiences and ideas to contribute to building a more forward-thinking and representative Europe. Gathering for the first time in 2022, the EYL40 Class of 2022 leaders will be introduced to their peers as well as to alumni of the programme and their innovative work to explore leadership both within and outside of Friends of Europe.
Throughout activities led by Alex Budak, Co-Founder of StartSomeGood and 2017 North American Young Leader, the class will reflect on questions and ideas around leadership to address Europe’s challenges including the Ukraine war. This lively gathering will also be an opportunity to prepare for the 2022 Spring Seminar ‘Saving democracy from itself’ to be held in Zagreb from May 12-14.
- 2021 Autumn EYL Seminar ‘Europe’s generation R – regeneration, recovery, resilience’
- Meet the EYL40
Enass is the Co-Founder and CEO of H2GO Power, an award-winning British company that develops hydrogen energy storage technologies. Her designs for a new energy storage system can guarantee stable supply of renewable energy for areas in developing countries with limited or no access to the electrical grid. With over a decade of both research and business experience in renewables and energy storage, Enass champions climate entrepreneurship and clean energy technology. She is currently a Member of the Advisory Board of General Atlantic’s BeyondNetZero $4bn equity growth climate fund, a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow and a technology consultant for the European Research Executive Agency. Enass has received several awards in recognition of her work, including the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Europe Visionary of the Year award and the Best Energy Start-up award at the Global Hello Tomorrow Summit.
A Maltese athlete and climate activist determined to eliminate marine plastic pollution, Neil created Wave of Change, a movement to encourage a behavioural shift in society’s plastic use. Neil swims great distances to raise awareness about marine pollution and inspire others to collect three items of rubbish when visiting the seaside. He has swum a 100km journey from Sicily to Malta in an astonishing 28 hours, as well as around the entire island of Malta. Most recently, he swam the 125.6km journey from the Italian island of Linosa to Gozo in just over 52 hours, breaking the previous world record for the longest continuous, unassisted, current-neutral swim along a single-segment natural route in ocean, sea or bay. The entire swim was livestreamed, attracting over 2mn viewers, which Neil used as a platform to highlight plastic pollution in our oceans. The former competitive swimmer participated in the Athens Olympic Games and the Games of the Small States of Europe.
A Finnish politician representing the group of the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, Alviina is an advocate of human rights, peace, the environment, as well as mental health and wellbeing. As a Member of the European Parliament, she serves as a Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and as her group’s coordinator for the Subcommittee on Security and Defence. She is also a substitute Member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the Committee on Development, and serves as a Co-Chair of the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing. She was the shadow rapporteur for parliamentary reports on security in the Arctic and the Sahel region. Alviina also serves as a Member of the Helsinki City Council, where she has led several successful initiatives to tackle discrimination, increase accessibility to natural areas and set up low-threshold mental health clinics in the Finnish capital city. Alviina is one of the initiators of #Terapiatakuu, a citizens’ initiative to speed up and facilitate access to mental health care.
Elena is currently the Head of Data & Advanced Analytics, Client Solutions at BBVA and a member of the Digital Leaders Group Europe at the World Economic Forum. Elena formerly served as CEO of BBVA Data & Analytics and previously managed the innovation unit at BBVA, where she led a global initiative on big data and smart cities, which aimed to create new urban services based on smart data and information management. She gained international recognition for the initiative’s accomplishments. Prior to establishing herself as an expert in the field of innovation, Elena played an active role in the development of telecommunications in EMEA and LATAM in the business development area.
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.
Diane Binder is a business executive and social entrepreneur, with extensive experience in developing public-private alliances which promote urban resilience, climate adaptation and mitigation. She is a Founding Partner and CEO of Regenopolis, an initiative for regenerative cities in Africa. In addition to serving as a member of the French Presidential Council for Africa, Diane is also the President and Co-Founder of Action Emploi Réfugiés. She previously worked at SUEZ, a leader in water supply and waste management services.
A Dutch machine learning scientist turned entrepreneur, Loubna is the Founder and CEO of OKRA Technologies, a leading artificial intelligence analytics company in the life sciences sector. The start-up aims to revolutionise traditional healthcare systems by abandoning the one-size-fits-all model and building a future of personalised medicine. OKRA uses explainable AI to empower healthcare professionals to make decisions that will support the delivery of the right drug to the right patient at speed. In recognition of Loubna’s leadership, OKRA received the StartUp Europe Award for Best Female-Led Startup. The same year, Loubna also accepted the CEO of the Year Award at the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards. As a former member of the European Union High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, she supported the implementation of the Union’s strategy on AI within the digital single market.
Mario is a German computer scientist and politician, who currently serves as a Member of the Bundestag for the Free Democratic Party (FDP). He is determined to support Germany’s future through the use of digital technologies. With strong knowledge in quantum computing, biotechnology, AI, 3D printing and blockchain technologies, Mario currently is the Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Research. In addition to his role at the federal level, he remains active in local politics as a Member of the Municipal Council of Rülzheim and the District Council of Germersheim. Mario also has a keen interest in how digital processes can benefit rural areas within society’s digital transformation.
Nicolas is the Chairman of the Management Board of EuraTechnologies, Europe’s largest and oldest incubator, and President of the European Startup Network, an industry group which represents start-ups in Brussels. An avid supporter of Europe’s digital sovereignty and named among the most influential people in the digital sector in Europe, Nicolas promotes greater investment in local start-ups across Europe. Nicolas sits on the board of a number of other companies and foundations, including Tilder and France Alzheimer, and regularly contributes to the global conversation on tech policies through op-eds in global media. He is the former chief executive officer of the largest start-up organisation in Europe, France Digitale. Prior to entering the tech sector, he was the research director at Kantar-TNS Sofres and a senior advisor to the French government’s spokesperson.
Alex Budak is a serial social entrepreneur and faculty member at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He created and teaches one of the university’s most popular courses, which equips and inspires students on how to become changemakers. Prior to joining UC Berkeley, he co-founded StartSomeGood, a leading social impact crowdfunding platform which has helped over 1,000 changemakers in 50 countries raise over $10mn altogether. Alex is also the former country director of Reach for Change, Scandinavia’s leading social impact incubator, in Stockholm. A mentor, coach and advisor to social entrepreneurs around the world, Alex has delivered keynote speeches and lectures on leadership and social innovation in venues from the White House to the World Bank, from Cambodia to the Arctic Circle. His work has been featured in various publications, including Forbes, The Guardian and The Washington Post.
Sinéad is an Irish writer, educator and advocate, who champions inclusive, universal design to create a more equitable and accessible world for everyone. She founded Tilting the Lens to bring visibility to inaccessibility through the three pillars of education, advocacy and design. The consultancy has advised major global brands, including Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Netflix, Pinterest and Starbucks, on their move from awareness to action. Sinéad serves on Gucci’s Global Equity Board, ITV’s Cultural Advisory Council, the Irish President’s Council of State and Ireland’s Future of Media Commission. As a public speaker and host of the As Me with Sinéad podcast, Sinéad facilitates honest conversations about identity, disability and accessibility. Her children’s book, “Break the Mould”, is a primer on how to take your place in the world – with lessons for all. It won the An Post Irish Book Award.
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.
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.
Gustavo is a Portuguese doctor and anaesthesiologist, specialising in intensive care. Gustavo has been actively outspoken about COVID-19 and the pandemic to raise awareness around scientific information, vaccination and mental health. He has appeared on major news channels, such as CNN, Reuters and Público, while his Facebook and Instagram accounts reach audiences of 60k and 80k, respectively. An activist and self-described dreamer, he is passionate about humanitarian medicine. Over the last years, Gustavo has joined 13 humanitarian missions to war zones with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Following his first mission to Mozambique, he has travelled to various Central and Northern African countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Burundi and South Sudan. In the greater Middle East, these humanitarian missions have brought him to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine. His latest book, “The World Needs to Know”, shares his experiences of several humanitarian missions to war-torn countries.
Prior to her current position, Mila served as Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of North Macedonia as well as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for economic affairs during the transition Government in 2020. She was elected to government in 2017. Mila is an avid proponent of human rights whose professional career to date has been marked by a commitment to social work on behalf of the most vulnerable and threatened citizens, whether it be Roma, disadvantaged youth, drug addicts or victims of domestic violence. Projects she has managed over the years include organising drama workshops with children housed in institutions, hosting educational workshops, offering consultations for drug users and their families, and conducting field research. Mila has used her platform as Minister to advocate for gender equality, the elimination of violence against women, and anti-discrimination.
Mihai is a value-oriented investor from the United Kingdom with extensive experience in the financial sector. In his current role as Vice-President at BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world, his work focuses on event-driven and special situation investments in both public and private markets throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Mihai is a former executive director in the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs, covering multi-billion transactions across Europe and the Middle East, prior to which he worked in mergers and acquisitions at Morgan Stanley. Mihai is also a national contests laureate in piano, maths and business ethics.
A professional Italian volleyball player, Valentina is a true role model for girls and women in sport. She currently sports the #7 jersey for LKS Commercecon Lodz in Poland, prior to which she played for Wealth Planet Perugia in Italy. Valentina is an Ambassador for Laureus Italia and Nike Made to Play project, two initiatives which encourage inclusion, gender equality and female leadership in youth sports. Before returning to Italy to play for the Italian women’s volleyball league, Serie A1, Valentina spent three seasons abroad. She played for KGC Ginseng in South Korea, where she scored a personal record of 54 points in a single match and earned her position among the top 10 best single-game scorers in the world. While playing for Associação Vôlei Bauru in Brazil, she helped lead the team to its victory at the Paulista Championship. Valentina has won gold medals with the national Italian team at the U20 World Championship and Mediterranean Games.
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.
Lina Ejeilat is co-founder and editor-in-chief of 7iber.com, a Jordanian citizen media platform and online magazine, created to inform and engage communities in order to develop a more open society. It is known for publishing taboo political, economic, social, and religious topics that mainstream media avoid. In addition to its online presence, 7iber.com delivers trainings, workshops, debates, and talks. Lina advocates for freedom of press, universal rights and access to information, taking part in numerous meetings and conferences in order to promote these.
Federico is an Italian academic, who currently teaches at the School of Law & Government at DCU, where he is also the Director of the Law Research Center and established the Brexit Institute to explore the implications of Brexit on government, business and society from an academic and policy perspective. A qualified attorney, he has previously held academic positions in the Netherlands and Denmark and been a visiting scholar in France, Australia, Japan and the United States. Federico has authored five monographs, one textbook and over 100 articles and book chapters on European law and policy, in addition to policy reports at the request of the European Parliament and the Presidency of the Eurogroup. He has also edited numerous books and special issues for journals. In recognition of his contributions to European scholarship, Federico was awarded the European Charlemagne Prize Fellowship and knighted by the President of Italy.
Andrea is a Spanish lawyer and politician, who currently serves as the Secretary of Equality for the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), the government’s ruling party. As a Member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, she is the Deputy Spokesperson of the Justice Commission and the First Vice President of the Commission for the audit of democratic quality, the fight against corruption and institutional and legal reforms. She is also committed to NGOs which provide free legal and psychological assistance to people who are victims of abuse and sexual violence. Andrea previously practiced corporate law and has held various positions within different youth organisations, including as a member of the Permanent Commission of the School Council of Castile and León, and as the secretary-general of the Autonomous Federation of Student Associations (FADAE).
Mary is a journalist and researcher specialising in the Euro-Mediterranean region with a particular focus on Libya. Her work has appeared in publications including the Economist, Foreign Policy, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the Financial Times and the Guardian. She has conducted research on Libya for the International Crisis Group, European Council on Foreign Relations and European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMED), and regularly briefs European governments and international organisations. In her previous role as Irish Times foreign affairs correspondent, she reported from 40 countries across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. She has also been a foreign affairs columnist for the Irish Independent, Ireland’s biggest selling newspaper. Mary is a member of the Global Women’s Forum ‘Rising Talents’ network.
Clémentine is a journalist who has gone from freelance reporting on the radio and in magazines to later becoming Editor-in-Chief at EurActiv, France. She is now Editor-in-Chief Editor of Contexte, an online newspaper that focuses on French and European public policy which she co-founded in 2013. She is also Vice-President of Europresse, the association of French journalists who cover European affairs, and AJDE, an association for journalists who specifically report on energy issues. Educated in Paris and Brussels, Clémentine is a published author and was previously in charge of opening the Brussels office of the Robert Schuman Foundation.
Markus is the Founder of the Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE), a leading financial intermediary that helps social enterprises scale their social impact by helping them raise hybrid growth capital. FASE has built an open pipeline of investment-ready social enterprises and closed sixteen transactions leveraging around €6m in impact investments. Markus is also a member of the Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES), a consultative multi-stakeholder group on social business that examines the progress of measures foreseen by the European Commission. He has experience of working with many social enterprises in finding appropriate financing solutions and scaling-up the impact of proven business models. Markus worked for seven years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where one of his roles was providing pro-bono consulting for social entrepreneurs.
Nathalie Furrer is the Director of Climate & Energy, Health, European Young Leaders and State of Europe Programmes & Operations at Friends of Europe. Through her leadership, since 2002, the think tank has become the go-to place to connect, debate and change Europe.
She founded its Africa, development, health, climate, energy and sustainability transition policy areas and launched its very successful European Young Leaders programme.
She has been instrumental in developing a multi-stakeholder approach to the work of a think tank and in the organisation’s reach to the non-institutional sector.
In her current role, she works with our talented team, members and partners. Prior to joining Friends of Europe, she worked in an institute for public policy research organising international conferences throughout Europe.
Alessandro serves as a Member of the Italian Parliament. He is also the Co-Founder and former secretary of the Italian political organisation, Movimenta, prior to which he worked as a strategic advisor for H-Farm’s Education division. Alessandro is the former head of cabinet at the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. He has prior experience as a special advisor on economic diplomacy to the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and as a special advisor on innovation, entrepreneurship, youth and European affairs to the Italian Minister of Economic Development. Alessandro has also worked as an official at the Council of the European Union dealing with global economic governance and under the Italian Prime Minister’s office in Rome as part of the G8 summit team.
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 KosovoDiaspora.org, a crowdsourcing digital engagement and diplomacy platform that connects Kosovars to the world and vice versa to promote Kosovo’s statehood internationally.
Soulaima is a speaker, consultant, author, blogger and an active board member in several public and private companies. It is her vision to change the world to a better more tolerant place through trade and business, and relations between countries and people. She spends part of her time and own money travelling around the world to do “impact journeys”. The past year she has been to Mexico, UAE, India, Jordan, Myanmar and China to work with local entrepreneurs, young global leaders, local schools, change makers and NGOs. Since 2007, she has worked as an advisor and speaker for more than 1000 clients. She has received several prestigious awards among others the Rising Star, the Talent 100 price 2004, PowerWomen, 20 Greatest Nordic Thinkers. Soulaima holds an E-MBA from the Copenhagen Business School.
A Bulgarian social entrepreneur, Iva is the Founder and CEO of Humans in the Loop, which provides remote online employment to conflict-affected and displaced people, such as refugees, in the field of dataset annotation and model validation for computer vision and artificial intelligence. The award-winning social enterprise has provided work and training opportunities for over 500 people in Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen, and maintains a dedicated programme to promote the economic inclusion of women. Humans in the Loop is part of MIT SOLVE’s ‘Good Jobs and Inclusive Entrepreneurship’ cohort of social enterprises and has also been awarded by the Global Innovators programme of the Dubai 2020 World Expo. Iva is passionate about promoting the role of humans in AI pipelines and the mitigation of bias in AI systems through diverse and representative data. She is also part of Forbes 30 under 30 in her country.
Audrey is a Belgian businesswoman with a wealth of experience in advising corporate, government and philanthropic clients on a range of development and social impact topics. As an Associate Partner at Dalberg Advisors, she works with clients to improve education, employment and health outcomes worldwide through the development, implementation and impact evaluation of inclusive development strategies. Audrey currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors at bpost, leading the Belgian postal operator’s transition from a mail to parcel network. She is the Chair of the Board at Be education, an organisation that supports the improvement of education in Belgium. Audrey is also the Co-Founder and former operational director of Spectralys Biotech, a start-up that provides a unique protein analysis technology for the biopharmaceutical industry. She was previously the president of Groupe Vendredi, a think tank focused on societal issues in Belgium, and head of philanthropy at Telos Impact, a venture philanthropy firm.
A Danish politician who became Mayor of Holbæk Municipality on her 25th birthday, Christina is the country’s youngest mayor ever, simultaneously tackling age and gender stereotypes. Labelled Denmark’s poorest municipality at the start of her term, Holbæk’s finances have significantly improved under Christina’s leadership, having exercised tight financial management and prioritised previously neglected areas, including primary and lower secondary schools. Her fresh approach to local politics is characterised by greater engagement with the community. She partakes in an ‘internship’ every Tuesday to gain insight into different sectors across the municipality and was recognised for her efforts with the Dialogue Prize at Folkemødet. She previously served as a municipal council member. An established member of the Danish Social Democratic Youth (DSU) and the Social Democrats, she is the former chairman of DSU Holbæk and former deputy to the party association’s main board.
Nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’, Katinka is a competitive swimmer from Hungary. The three-time Olympic gold medallist, nine-time World Champion and 14-time European Champion holds 96 medals and aims to be the first swimmer with 100. Katinka is the only swimmer ever to hold all five individual medley world records at the same time. Recognised as the most versatile swimmer in the world, she has been named Female Swimmer of the Year by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) four times and Hungarian Sportswoman of the Year seven times. Katinka founded the Iron Swim Club in Budapest for recreational and professional swimmers, preparing athletes of all ages for domestic and international competitions. The swimming icon currently competes for her own team, Team Iron, as its captain and is a Founding Member of the International Swimming League, an annual team-based swimming competition established by a group of athletes.
As Director of the EU Secretariat in the Estonian government, Klen coordinates and develops all EU policy and acts as the chief European affairs adviser to the Prime Minister. A career civil servant, Klen started out in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, rising quickly to the position of Head of the Refugees Department. In this capacity, he dealt with a variety of NGOs and international organisations including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He later moved to Brussels where he spent six years working at the Estonian Permanent Representation to the EU during which time he dealt with many issues related to the preparation, ratification and implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon.
Justas is a Lithuanian entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Lithuania’s first unicorn start-up, Vinted. The mobile shopping platform for second-hand fashion is Europe’s largest online customer-to-customer (C2C) marketplace in Europe. Operational in 15 countries with over 45mn users, the platform has continued to experience tremendous growth, as consumption patterns continue to shift against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Justas served as Vinted’s CEO for nearly a decade. A serial angel investor who offers his expertise and financial support to young entrepreneurs, Justas has backed a wide range of projects, including Memby, an after-school online learning platform, the sustainable Local Ocean shrimp farm, as well as Dogo, a mobile app for dog training that has been named Apple’s App of the Day in countries across North America, Europe and Australia.
A Polish writer, speaker and activist, Leszek is the Editor-in-Chief of Liberté!, a journal which he founded over a decade ago to promote freedom, share ideas and counter populism. He is the co-creator of Freedom Games, an interdisciplinary event that gathers 4,000 attendees and 350 speakers to discuss the key challenges Western societies must face in the 21st century. Leszek is also the Founder and CEO of Bookme, an app which makes reading internet-friendly. He currently serves on the Council of European Forum for New Ideas and recently completed a policy fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, where his work focused on how the narrative of change could counter the rise of populism in EU member states, overcome the European identity crisis and strengthen transnational governance.
Tea is a grassroots youth activist from Slovenia, who campaigns for social justice and actively engages in various social movements. As President of the ETUC Youth Committee, she leads the organisation in its mission to amplify the voice of the European youth workforce. Tea is also the President of Sindikat Mladi plus, a Slovenian youth trade union that represents working and unemployed Slovenian young people and students, including high school students, and seeks to protect their social and labour rights. A freelance educator, trainer and facilitator, Tea also hosts a podcast, which covers labour issues and explores labour policy alternatives that prioritise the well-being of citizens and the environment.
Toms is a Latvian entrepreneur in the fintech industry. He is the Founder and CEO of Sun Finance Group, a fintech company that operates a user-friendly online and mobile lending platform. One of the fastest growing companies in Europe, Sun Finance has expanded its operations beyond Latvia to Denmark, Poland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Vietnam and Sweden and secured over €1.2bn in loans to clients who have been typically unable to access funding. He has also launched two additional successful businesses, supporting their growth in the start-up stage and development as international multi-million companies. Toms is also the Founder and Chairman of the Council at the Alternative Financial Services Association of Latvia, which connects fintech and other companies in order to promote responsible practices and cooperation in the sector.
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.
A competitive sailor from Cyprus, Pavlos is an Olympic medallist and the first and only athlete to win an Olympic medal for the country. Following his historic win, he went on to place second at the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) World Championship and then earned the title of World Champion for two consecutive years, as well as European Champion. Pavlos has been recognised as the Cyprus Athlete of the Year seven times. He is a true role model for young athletes and actively supports the sporting community in his country. Ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Pavlos launched the #TowardsTokyo campaign to financially support five promising Cypriot athletes in their preparations to qualify for the national Olympics team, four of which were successful in reaching Tokyo.
Ivan is a political scientist, economic advisor and writer from Slovakia. Shortly after joining the Slovak Ministry of Finance as advisor to the minister, Ivan instigated the setup of the Slovak Investment Holding (SIH). Since being appointed its CEO in January 2017, Ivan led this state-owned fund in investing in strategic sectors of the economy, and driving economic development throughout the country. As of 2022, Ivan now leads ESCO Slovensko, a joint company of Czech and Slovak energy companies as a board member and head of Strategy and M&A. He previously served as deputy finance minister, and held leading roles during the Slovak Presidency in the EU Council. Ivan is a keen writer and has seen the publication of a number of his works, including a popular study of the 2008 Financial Crisis he co-authored and a children’s book.
Arancha is a Spanish social innovator on a mission to maximise the impact of social projects. With 13 years of experience in the field of humanitarian aid, Arancha is tackling poverty through innovation and reshaping the world of philanthropy. She founded It-willbe.org to maximise aid and funds by leveraging data to understand the dimensions and significance of problems faced by vulnerable people. Its largest project, the People’s Protection App, promotes the right to identity by accurately identifying homeless minors through biometrical recognition and data processing software, making “invisible” people visible. Arancha is also the Co-Founder and CEO of The Common Good Chain, the first blockchain-backed platform to measure and report social impact across entire value chains, providing the social sector with the traceability and transparency it needs to transform society. In recognition of her work, she has received the European Commission’s EU Prize for Women Innovators and the Princess of Girona Social Award.
Marie is a Paris-based journalist and the Dean of the Sciences Po Journalism School. She has spent the past 15 years in international newsrooms, including Bloomberg and Reuters, digging into how technology has changed the economy, politics and culture across Europe. She has written extensively about innovation policies in the EU, in the face of US and Chinese tech giants. Passionate about the crucial role that information plays for society, citizens and businesses, she is responsible for Sciences Po’s strategy in training future journalists who will go the extra mile to understand the world and decode it. Marie is also a Senior Reporter and Editorial and Business Strategist at Sifted, a new digital media venture backed by The Financial Times and focused on European start-ups.
João is the Secretary General of the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Portugal (BCSD Portugal), a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Global Network. Prior to assuming his current role, João held several roles in the public, private and non profit sectors. He served as Secretary of State for Youth and Sports in the Portuguese Government, had several roles in the Portuguese startup ecosystem (as head of Startup Discoveries, a venture capital fund, head of the REACTOR – Innovation Hub, and head of the Mouraria Creative Hub). He also served as director of GABIP Mouraria, a mission unit reporting to the mayor of Lisbon that led the rehabilitation of Mouraria – in the past a deprived area in the center of Lisbon, but also its most traditional and multicultural quarter. Finally, he’s the founder of HUB 2050, a consulting firm acting in the field of innovation for sustainability, and author of two books about management and innovation.»
Before becoming Executive Director of UNICEF Hungary in 2017, Antonia was a well-known Hungarian journalist, television presenter, author and documentary filmmaker. She has interviewed just about every EU politician that visited Hungary in recent years. She hosted Hungary’s main evening current affairs programme from 2007 to 2011, but was forced to leave the national public broadcaster MTV, along with thousands of colleagues after the new government “reorganised” public broadcasting and has been working at ATV, an independent news channel ever since. Antonia has participated in charitable projects and literacy campaigns aimed at helping the Roma population. For the last few years she has also been asked to head a Hungarian foundation recognising and rewarding journalistic achievements and organising events and workshops for media professionals. She is an English Literature graduate from ELTE University in Budapest.
Ayman Mhanna is Executive Director of the Beirut-based Samir Kassir Foundation, one of the leading press freedom NGOs in the Middle East. In this capacity, he oversees the foundation’s advocacy, monitoring, research and training activities. Mhanna has previously held the position of Executive Director of the Global Forum for Media Development, focusing on monitoring violations targeting journalists and providing them with the necessary support. He has also extensively worked with issues related to election observation, electoral reform and civil society involvement. Until recently, he was a lecturer on policy development and communications at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. In 2016, he was appointed Secretary-General of the Democratic Renewal Movement, a secular, social-liberal political party in Lebanon.
Meghan Milloy is the Co-Founder of Republican Women for Progress (RWFP) and the Director of Strategic Communications at the Institute for International Bankers. Prior to this, she was a fellow at the Robert Bosch Foundation, where her work focused on trade issues in the German public and private sectors. Meghan previously served as the chair of Republican Women for Hillary (RWFH) and director of financial services policy at the American Action Forum (AAF). During the Obama administration, Meghan worked as a presidential management fellow at the Small Business Administration on matters of financial inclusion and as a counsel with the House Financial Services Committee. She was an intern at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the George W. Bush White House. Meghan has also worked in the office of former Senate majority leader Trent Lott and has volunteered for the campaigns of Haley Barbour, George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton.
Soheil is a Member of the Management Board of Rocket Internet, Europe’s largest incubator for technology companies. He is also a Partner at the company’s investment arm, Global Founders Capital, which is among of largest venture capital firms in Europe. Prior to his current roles, Soheil gained experience in private equity and investment banking at two leading global investment firms, KKR and Morgan Stanley. He started his career at Rocket Internet as a co-founder and managing director of marketplaces in the Middle East. Devoted to social causes that benefit youths from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, Soheil currently works as a mentor in the Deutschlandstiftung mentorship programme and serves on the Board of InteGREATer.
Sophie is a Luxembourgish actress, well known for her roles in the crime series, “City Hunter” (“Nicky Larson et le parfum de Cupidon”) and Netflix’s “Capitani”. A linguaphile, Sophie is building her international portfolio, playing roles in German, French and English. Most recently, she has starred in movies within the drama and thriller categories, including “An Zéro – Comment le Luxembourg a disparu” and “Skin Walker”. Sophie has also appeared in a number of theatre productions, including “Ivanov” and “Le jeu de l’amour et du hazard”. In her first leading role and big screen debut, Sophie played a rebellious teenager in the French comedy, “Le Correspondant”. During her studies, Sophie was among those selected to join the world renowned Classe libre at the Cours Florent.
Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke is Founder & CEO of W4.org, 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.
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.
Jens is a Danish diplomat focused on the changing international architecture, climate, the UN sustainable development goals and the role of the United Nations in addressing global challenges. Jens was Counsellor at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations in New York. Having worked and studied in the United States, France, Palestine, Israel, Denmark and Jordan, Jens Ole defines himself as “a dedicated internationalist and multi-lateralist”. He has 15 years of experience in international relations and international negotiations.
Paolo is the Founding Director-General of the Stauffer Center for Strings in Italy, the first international music centre for higher education dedicated entirely to string instruments. Paolo’s work is driven by the belief that culture, arts and education are a major force for growth, development and change on the global level. He is the Founder and President of EMMA for Peace (Euro-Mediterranean Music Academy), among the largest international non-profit organisations for the promotion of a culture of peace through music diplomacy and education in Europe, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Paolo is the Founder and Honorary President of the Italian Youth Association for UNESCO, the largest youth organisation in the UNESCO system, and Cultural Diplomacy Officer for the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. A performing arts manager, professor and researcher, he has become an influential global cultural leader, collaborating with renowned organisations and artists, including the United Nations, European Commission, Rome Opera House and Coldplay.
Johny is a writer, photographer and broadcaster, known for his work in exploring African-European identities. He is the curator of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) award-winning Afropean.com, and the author of “Afropean: Notes From Black Europe”. He currently co-hosts the ‘Open Book’ literature programme for BBC Radio 4 and is the creator of a forthcoming Afropean podcast funded by the National Geographical Society. Johny has contributed words and images for The Guardian, The New Statesman, The New York Times and CondéNast Traveller, and in recognition of his work, has received the Jhalak Prize, the Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing, the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding and the European Essay Prize. He is the recipient of the inaugural Ampersand/Photoworks Fellowship and will be exhibiting a new body of photographic work called ‘Home is Not a Place’ in a touring exhibition beginning in 2022.
Eduardo is a conductor and violinist, who founded the Conducting Academy, an online academy to share valuable information with those passionate about conducting. Having made his debut and conducted over twenty performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and throughout England, Eduardo has been invited to conduct orchestras across Europe and the Americas, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Madrid and Valencia Symphony Orchestras and Sao Paulo Estate Symphony Orchestra, among others. Widely acclaimed by musical critics and particularly committed to contemporary repertoire, Eduardo also founded and serves as the Music Director of Antares Ensemble in Spain, which focuses on the performance of new music and studies its links with historical and rarely-performed masterpieces.
Cristina is Board Member, COO and Head of Contents Treccani Futura, the new Italian cultural and education Edtech hub born from the acquisition by Treccani Scuola of Impactscool, the company she co-founded and guided as CEO for 5 years. Cristina is a populizer, a social entrepreneur and an active citizen with the aim to impact society positively. After selling Wish Days, co-founded in 2006 with Andrea Dusi, she created a social enterprise (Impactscool) in order to bring awareness about the future and innovative education to schools, universities and organizations on technologies, ethics and future studies tools. Her mission is to give everyone access to the future in the global – fast changing society in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution. Her motto is “the future is open source”: shaped together as a co-creation activity and accessible to everyone.
Thanks to the work done with Impactscool and to her previous experiences she has been invited to join the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum (2019-2024) in 2019 and the EYL40 community in 2020.
She is also member of the International Advisory Board of the Institute for Ethical AI in Education and Independent Advisor in the advisory board of Fondo Italiano d’Investimento SGR.
Books: “Benvenuti nel 2050” (EGEA, 2019), “Destination 2050” (BUP, 2020).
Anne-Solène heads the department of museums at the French Ministry of Culture. A fierce advocate for history and heritage, she has shaped her career around showcasing the societal benefits of cultural conservation. As a curator of heritage, she has held leading positions at the prestigious Quai Branly Museum and the French National Museum of Immigration History. Anne-Solène has also been director of research and collections at the Louvre Museum, where she oversaw the acquisition and lending of the museum’s artwork. She played an instrumental role in increasing the availability of the world’s finest art to a greater number of people.
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.
A German technology expert, Gundbert’s personal mission is to make technology work for the purpose of democratic defence and security institutions. He co-founded Helsing, a security and artificial intelligence company that specialises in real-time information processing software, with the aim of strengthening Europe’s liberal democracies by providing the clearest image possible of an operating environment. Assisting democratic governments in becoming technology makers not takers, Helsing has quickly become one of the fastest growing tech companies in Europe. A self-described ‘transatlanticist’, Gundbert is also a Member of Atlantik-Brücke, a non-profit association which aims to deepen transatlantic cooperation. Gundbert previously served as a commissioner at the German Federal Ministry of Defence, in which role he contributed to the design of the Cyber and Information Domain Command, a new military service related to the information domain.
Robert Shirkey is the Founder of Our Horizon, a non-profit organization which campaigns for laws to require climate change and air pollution risk disclosures or ‘warning labels’ on gas pumps. His work has been used by advocates around the world to advance the ground-breaking concept in their own communities. A lawyer by trade, Rob previously operated a private practice in downtown Toronto and also has experience as an assistant city solicitor and prosecutor. Robert has given lectures on the subject across North America, as well as Europe, and has featured in media all over the world. He is a recipient of Canada’s 2017 Clean50 Award and was also named a 2016 Agent of Change by the Centre for Social Innovation and Green Shield Canada Foundation. His book, “The Banality of Oil” is to published in 2021.
Michal is the first Slovak politician to serve as a Vice-President of the European Parliament. The highest-ranked Slovak in the Parliament’s history, Michal is responsible for democracy and human rights. He is a former vice-president of Renew Europe and was the rapporteur for a key proposal to introduce a new mechanism for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and European values in member states. A champion of a free, secure and democratic Europe, Michal is a Founding Member and the Vice-President of the Progressive Slovakia, a pro-European party in Slovakia. Previously, he worked as a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague, studying European integration and security, and served as an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. Michal began his professional career as a journalist for SME, a Slovak newspaper, and then the Financial Times.
Dimitris Tsingos is a serial tech entrepreneur and early stage investor. He is the Founder and CEO of Startech Ventures, a private venture builder and seed investor in Greece. The first Greek seed fund member of the European Business Angels Network, the group has helped launch more than ten successful IT start-ups. Dimitris has been at the helm of various start-ups, including Epignosis, Yodeck, Cycleops and Testilio, among others, and most notably AbZorba Games, a mobile gaming service which was acquired by Novomatic. A passionate European federalist and co-author of the Rome Manifesto, Dimitris initiated the People’s Movement for the European Federal Union. He has also founded the Hellenic Business Angel Network and the Hellenic Start-up Association, a collective effort of Greek start-up entrepreneurs promoting high-growth and innovative entrepreneurship in Greece. He is also the former president of the leading organisation of youth entrepreneurship in Europe, the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs, and a former fellow at the Marshall Memorial and PSL Research University.
Wietse is an award-winning Dutch social entrepreneur and conservationist, pioneering regenerative blue economy ventures. Wietse has received wide recognition for his innovative approach to mobilising businesses, governments and citizens to form uncommon partnerships for the social, economic and ecological regeneration of European coastal and ocean areas. His current venture, the Sea Ranger Service, trains unemployed young people from port cities with the help of navy veterans to manage Marine Protected Areas in European seas. A new type of professional sailing vessel has been developed for the Sea Rangers, with cost-effective sea operation and zero emissions.
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.
Florian is Head of the corporate governance and internal policies division at the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), where he is responsible for the preparation of decisions and meetings of the Board of Governors (eurozone finance ministers), Board of Directors and Board of Auditors. He has worked in economic and financial affairs in the areas of central banking and monetary policy in various capacities including at the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Central Bank (ECB). He has a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as well as a Master’s in Advanced European Studies from the University of Vienna.
- By Jamie Shea
- Eye on the Geopolitical Ball
- Area of Expertise
- Peace, Security & Defence
- By Yamina Saheb