The emperor has no clothes

Past event Dublin, Ireland

The emperor has no clothes

What happened?

Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion is the frontline of a wider battle between democracy and authoritarianism that needs wholehearted support from across the European Union, the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme heard on Thursday.

“This is not just a war between two states, this is a war between two systems, between authoritarianism and democracy,” said Oleksandra Matviichuk, Head of Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and 2023 EYL40. “Putin is not afraid of NATO, Putin is afraid of the idea of freedom.”

Europe must unite to thwart the Russian leader’s threat to European values, Matviichuk insisted during the opening debate of the EYL40 seminar held in Dublin.

Speaking from the floor in a session open to the public, one participant suggested a European “day for Ukraine” where citizens across the continent could demonstrate their support and send a clear message to politicians on the importance of maintaining backing for Ukraine’s defence.

In the public session that asked: ‘What has the EU ever done for us?’, panellists also looked at Europe’s approach to migration; the impact of EU membership in transforming Ireland since it joined 50 years ago; and the negative impact of Brexit on the United Kingdom.

The young leaders also held a series of roundtable discussions on issues ranging from the ethics of Artificial Intelligence to the role of financial institutions in supporting the green transition. Another first-day session was scheduled to debate lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process.

The day was due to wrap up with dinner at Dublin Castle with Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, Chair of the Elders and Honorary Co-President of the Africa-Europe Foundation.

Friends of Europe – #EYL40 – Dublin – 2023

The time has come to change the narrative on climate change, stop bombarding the public with a baffling array of statistics and focus on hard-hitting storytelling that can communicate the urgent need for action, the EYL40 heard on Friday.

“We must stop communicating the climate crisis with only facts and stats, we must focus on personal stories,” Bella Lack, environmental activist and author of ‘Storytelling Will Save the Earth’ and ‘The Children of the Anthropocene’ told the EYL40 meeting in Dublin. “Without a narrative structure, we fall into apathy.”

Aside from stressing the importance of storytelling that can turn climate insecurity into climate action, the second day of the EYL40 autumn seminar discussed the growing role of satellite monitoring and space-based modelling in helping combat the climate crisis.

Claudia Vitolo, Earth Observation Digital Twin Earth Applications Scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA), briefed the EYL40 on ESA’s work in developing a digital replica of the planet to inform climate policy decisions.

Another pressing scientific issue was covered in a session on the role of artificial intelligence in healthcare, examining the opportunities and risks of AI, as well as the importance of getting regulation right to prevent abuses of the fast-developing technologies.

The European Young Leaders wrapped up their autumn seminar in Dublin on Saturday by brainstorming policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract that re-engages citizens with the European project and promotes a revised dynamic in relations between the public, private and civil society sectors.

Roundtable sessions brainstormed on concrete recommendations in areas such as digitalisation, civic education, climate policy, the just transition and maximising investment impacts.

“Channelling the right investments into the right policies is crucial for achieving meaningful and lasting change in various aspects of society, economy and the environment,” said Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, Co-Founder of Velocity.Partners Venture Capital and Foundation and 2023 EYL40. “It is essential for governments, organisations and individuals to carefully allocate resources to initiatives that align with their objectives and have a positive impact.”

The young leaders’ recommendations will feed into Friends of Europe’s goal of defining and promoting a Renewed Social Contract for Europe that will present policy ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections.

Meeting in Dublin’s historic Mansion House, the leaders also exchanged ideas in peer-learning roundtables on the value of poetry to European culture; the potential of hyperloop-inspired high-speed trains; artificial intelligence’s impact on the publishing industry; and the use of fintech to empower migrants and their families.

The leaders also heard from whistle-blower Mark MacGann, who exposed corporate practice by leaking internal documents known as the Uber Files.

This event took place in Dublin, Ireland. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook, and join the #EYL40Dublin discussion!

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Word of welcome Expand Word of welcome


John Doyle

Vice President for Research at Dublin City University (DCU)

A seminar moderated by

Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

PUBLIC EVENT – What has the EU ever done for us? Expand PUBLIC EVENT – What has the EU ever done for us?

The European project has existed for over 70 years and has faced significant changes since its inception. EU membership has brought numerous benefits to citizens, such as fundamental rights, economic transformations, improved health and safety standards, environmental protection, and strengthened trade.

Despite these tangible benefits of membership, public distrust of elites is widespread in many member states and euroscepticism continues to be a serious challenge. At the same time, the EU continues to attract new countries seeking to join the group of 27 member states, such as, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Montenegro to name a few. A key question is whether the EU is prepared to continue enlargement in the face of social discontent, challenges to the rule of law, and geopolitical tensions.

As Ireland celebrates 50 years since joining the European bloc, this session will also reflect on what membership has meant for the island’s citizens, businesses, and social dynamics.


Federico Fabbrini

Full Professor at Dublin City University (DCU), Founding Director of the Brexit Institute and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Oleksandra Matviichuk

Head of the Centre for Civil Liberties, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Kensika Monshengwo

Intercultural Training Coordinator at the Immigrant Council of Ireland

Shona Murray

European Affairs Correspondent at Euronews and

Coffee break

The EYL40s will have a chance to gain knowledge and inspiration from their peers and experts on solutions to, what may be often perceived as, impossible tasks.

Throughout five parallel roundtables, the EYL40s will have a chance to gain knowledge and inspiration from their peers and experts on solutions to, what may be often perceived as, impossible tasks.

Advancing policy through deliberative democracy: a focus on biodiversity and the environment

  • Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin – Associate Professor at University College Dublin and Chair of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss – will explore how citizens’ assemblies can influence policy change, notably with the example of environmental regulations.

Banking on the future to support the digital and green transition: how to equip banks, financial institutions, and non-traditional actors

  • Christy Petit – Assistant Professor at Dublin City University and Deputy Director of the DCU Brexit Institute – will highlight the banking and finance sectors’ strategic, environmental, and economic opportunities to shape the EU’s future and society.

Visions of technological sovereignty: navigating AI ethics

  • Jaromil Roio – Founder of Foundation and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40) – will discuss the keys to working and living in a world where artificial intelligence is increasingly present.

Solutions for supporting creativity and the arts with financial stability

  • Angela Dorgan – CEO of First Music Contact and until recently chair of the National Campaign for the Arts, who lobbied government for increased support, funding and recognition of artists, arts workers and arts organisations in Ireland – will explain the country’s Basic Income for the Arts pilot scheme and its value in terms of our personal and collective well-being.

Disinformation and manipulation in digital media: bad actors, platforms, audiences, and countermeasures

  • Eileen Culloty – Assistant Professor at Dublin City University – will examine the successes and failures of the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation in reducing ‘lawful but awful’ online behaviour.
Introduction to the seminar Expand Introduction to the seminar


Geert Cami

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

Stretch your legs and grab a refresher
PLENARY – Beyond conflict: lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process Expand PLENARY – Beyond conflict: lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process

Twenty-five years ago, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement peace accord ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland, known as “the Troubles”. An important element of the Agreement was the facilitation of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, between unionist and nationalist communities. Institutions were also developed for cross-border cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Women’s groups played a significant role in the peace process, pushing for greater inclusion and participation in traditionally male-dominated peace talks. They organised grassroots campaigns, held public meetings, and lobbied politicians to ensure that women’s voices and concerns were heard.

Building on lessons learned from the Good Friday Agreement, this session will reflect on best practices for conflict resolution and peacebuilding in 2023.


Colum Eastwood

Member of the British Parliament and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Kate Fearon

Founding Member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and Deputy Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre

Oleksandra Matviichuk

Head of the Centre for Civil Liberties, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Leona O’Neill

Journalist and Lecturer at Ulster University

Moderated by

Mary Fitzgerald

Non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, and Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence & Trustee of Friends of Europe

Bus transfer and quick check-in at the hotel
Walk to dinner
Dinner at the Dublin Castle Expand Dinner at the Dublin Castle

Welcome remarks by

Seán Fleming

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland


Mary Robinson

Former president of Ireland, Chair of the Elders and Honorary Co-President of the Africa-Europe Foundation (AEF)

Performance by

Aindrias de Staic

Actor, Musician and Storyteller

Continue to Day 2
Bus transfer
Grab a coffee or tea
PLENARY – The breakthrough potential of digital healthcare Expand PLENARY – The breakthrough potential of digital healthcare

The pandemic changed our health systems—it clarified the importance of digitalisation in terms of access, treatment, and emergency response.

Digitalisation will continue to provoke a seismic shift in health research and delivery, for example, in recent years, we have seen the considerable increase of telemedicine, and use of electronic health records and communications.

As we embrace this new digital healthcare landscape, it is crucial to prioritise inclusivity and avoid replicating discriminatory practices. Policymakers will need to leverage digitalisation for improved healthcare access and delivery while addressing associated opportunities and risks arising from the adoption of technologies.


Loubna Bouarfa

Chairwoman of the Innovation Board at Envision Pharma Group and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Dragos Tudorache

Former chair of the European Parliament Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA)

Vlad Voiculescu

Member of the European Parliament, former Romanian minister and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Coffee break
EYE OPENER – Digital twin Earth: will the climate science revolution transform climate policy? Expand EYE OPENER – Digital twin Earth: will the climate science revolution transform climate policy?

Thousands of terabytes of information are collected daily by satellites orbiting our planet. What if all this information could be merged into a singular model? A ‘digital twin’, a replica of the Earth that mimics its behaviour, will help monitor, model and predict natural and human activity, and develop and test scenarios for more sustainable development. This new reality could enable decision-makers to test different policies in real time and observe which yields better results.

The benefits of a digital Earth are difficult to overstate; it would be nothing short of a revolution in climate science. But while it may inform decision-makers and help bridge the gap between policy and science, we may continue to face limited political will. How would a digital twin of the Earth impact the fight against climate change? Would this trigger a paradigm shift? Is this the technological prowess that will help us regain the upper hand against climate change?


Claudia Vitolo

Earth Observation Digital Twin Earth Applications Scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA)

WORKSHOP – The importance of positive storytelling for positive social change Expand WORKSHOP – The importance of positive storytelling for positive social change

Part I – The importance of imagination and storytelling

Fables and fairytales can teach us life’s truths. Storytelling is a tool to learn about ourselves, inform our values, and teach us how to interact in society, from a young age. All too often, as we grow older, we lose track of the value of storytelling. We need to treasure it and use it to inspire hope, self-agency and resilience. Just as it has through time, the art of storytelling can help us address societal questions.

Part II – How we turn climate insecurity into climate action

One of the biggest societal questions of our time is the climate crisis.

The climate science is clear and makes for sober reading. We know that not enough is being done to address this existential challenge. Faced with an eco-anxious youth and marginalised communities, it is urgent that we change the way we talk about the climate. To motivate people—and our leaders— to take necessary action we need to create a positive message.

This workshop will explore the power of positive storytelling as an impactful tool for mobilisation, inclusion, and action.

Kickstarter remarks by

Bella Lack

Environmental activist and author of "The Children of the Anthropocene: Stories from the Young People at the Heart of the Climate Crisis"

A workshop led by

Kris De Meyer

Neuroscientist and Director of the Climate Action Unit at University College London

Free time
Informal dinner at the Guinness Storehouse
Continue to Day 3
Arrival to venue
PEER-LEARNING ROUNDTABLES – Connecting with EYLs and alumni Expand PEER-LEARNING ROUNDTABLES – Connecting with EYLs and alumni

Over breakfast, the European Young Leaders will host 40-minute parallel conversations on issues that matter to them in order to exchange expertise within this resourceful network.

Unravelling far-right narratives: understanding, mitigating, and educating for an inclusive Europe

  • Rim-Sarah Alouane, legal scholar and commentator, and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Can AI save the publishing sector and make learning accessible to all?

  • Gauthier van Malderen, Founder and CEO of Perlego and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

The value of poetry in localising Europe, its people, its lands, its cultures

  • Monika Herceg, writer, editor, and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

The future of transportation in Europe is hyperloop-inspired high-speed train

  • Pawel Radziszewski, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nevomo and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Using fintech innovation for good: empowering migrants and their famillies

  • Daumantas Dvinlinskas, Co-Founder and CEO of TransferGo and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Coffee break
PLENARY – 10 policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract Expand PLENARY – 10 policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract

In this session, we will discuss a draft set of policy choices for the new EU mandate. These policy choices will cover issues of digitalisation, taxation, social welfare, infrastructure and public goods, among others.

1. Channeling investments

  • Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, Co-Founder of Velocity.Partners Venture Capital and Found.ation, and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

2. Digitalisation as an enabler

  • Laurent Hublet, Co-Founder and Managing Director of BeCentral and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

3. Civic education

  • Rim-Sarah Alouane, Legal scholar and commentator, and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

4. Climate policy and the just transition

  • Luke O’Callaghan-White, Climate, Energy & Sustainability Manager at Friends of Europe





PLENARY – In conversation with Mark MacGann Expand PLENARY – In conversation with Mark MacGann

In 2022, MacGann, also known as “the Uber Files whistleblower”, leaked over 120,000 internal documents from Uber to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Guardian, shedding light on corporate malpractice and shady lobbying. This session will look into the responsibilities and ethical considerations of the private sector as a shareholder of the Renewed Social Contract, but also about the need to radically rethink the process by which citizens, the private sector, civil society and public institutions interact.

Wrap up of the EYL40 autumn seminar
Lunch and goodbyes
Off programme – a mix of culture, get together and Ireland discovery


Photo of Ifrah Ahmed
Ifrah Ahmed

Founder of the Ifrah Foundation and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Ifrah Ahmed

Ifrah Ahmed is a Somali-Irish social activist and advocate for the eradication of female genital mutilation (FGM). She is the Founder of the Ifrah Foundation, devoted to the elimination of FGM in her native Somalia and the Horn of Africa. As a child, Ahmed underwent forced mutilation and later fled to Ireland during the war in Somalia in her teenage years, where she was granted political asylum. She became the first woman to broadcast her testimony about undergoing FGM and has served as an advisor to the Somali president and government on gender. Ahmed is also a multi-award winning international advocate for the global elimination of FGM. Along with community empowerment, media and film are central tools to her advocacy work. She has made a short documentary on the death of a 10-year-old girl due to FGM-induced complications. The award-winning, feature-length film “A Girl from Mogadishu” documents her experiences of gender-based violence and turns it into a force for change.

Rim-Sarah Alouane
Rim-Sarah Alouane

Legal scholar and commentator and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Rim-Sarah Alouane

Rim-Sarah Alouane is a French legal scholar and commentator. Her research focuses on religious freedom, civil liberties, constitutional law and human rights across Europe and North America, with a special focus on France. Alouane has explored these issues as a guest lecturer at Georgetown University, Harvard Law School, Sorbonne and Sciences Po, among others. Her works have been published by the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, The New York Times and Foreign Policy magazine. Alouane also regularly appears on TV and radio outlets worldwide, including NPR, Al Jazeera, BBC and France24, to discuss issues such as discrimination, human rights and politics. Notably, she has been vocal about the rise of far-right politics and anti-Muslim hatred, specifically providing her expert commentary on bodily autonomy given policy developments regarding bans on hijabs and burkinis in France.

Photo of Camilla Appelgren
Camilla Appelgren

Chief Patrolling Ranger at the Heritage Parks Federation and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Camilla Appelgren

Camilla Appelgren is an environmental activist, who hails from Sweden but has called Malta home for over two decades. She founded Malta Clean Up to inspire citizen climate action by organising monthly clean-ups in different locations across the island, as well as to mobilise public support for clean-up and waste reduction efforts in the face of environmental degradation. Appelgren also built up the patrolling ranger unit at the Majjistral National Park. Her role is to ensure adherence to the park’s site regulations and documentation of environmental crimes, such as poaching and dumping of waste. A strong advocate against single-use plastics, she strives towards a zero-waste lifestyle and encourages others to adopt sustainable practices in their everyday lives. Appelgren ran as a Democratic Party (PD) candidate in the 2019 European elections. Although she was not elected to the European Parliament, the support she received from voters defied expectations, in no small part due to her passion for the environment and commitment to her community.

Martijn Arets
Martijn Arets

International expert and thinker in the field of emergence and development of the collaborative economy and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Martijn Arets

Martijn Arets is an international independent platform expert and has been exploring the rise of the platform economy and its impact on society from his role as ‘professional outsider’ for over a decade. He talks to all stakeholders involved, conducts research and takes an active role in the (public) debate. He gathered his knowledge by talking to more than 500 stakeholders in 15 countries. He shares his insights through presentations, consultancy, his weekly newsletter and contributions in the (international) media. He wrote the book ‘Platform Revolution – From Amazon to Zalando, the impact of platforms on how we work and live’ (in Dutch). Arets is the Founder of GigCV, a data sharing standard that allows 100,000 platform workers to access their data. He is also associated with the WageIndicator Foundation, where, among other things, he collaborated on a ‘living tarif’ for platform workers. Last, Arets has been part of the Platformeconomy lectorate at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

Photo of Hervé Berville
Hervé Berville

French State Secretary for the Sea and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Hervé Berville

Hervé Berville is a French economist and politician, who serves as the country’s State Secretary for the Sea, in which role he is responsible for the development and implementation of the government’s policy related to the sea, particularly the maritime economy. He has been elected twice to the French parliament, Assemblée nationale. Having authored a report on the modernisation of French foreign aid policy to support equal partnerships with Africa, Asia and Latin America, Berville was also the rapporteur of a programming bill on solidarity-based development and the fight against global inequalities. Both activities successfully led to the allocation of development funding. Berville began his political career as the spokesperson for La République en Marche parliamentary group, prior to which he worked as an economist for the French Development Agency in Mozambique and as a programme manager for the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies in Kenya.

Giulia Bonfá Bio European Young Leader 2023
Giulia Bonfà

Lieutenant Commander in the Italian Navy and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Giulia Bonfà

Giulia Bonfà serves in the Italian Navy as one of the 10% of women who make up the Italian Armed Forces. She currently works on maritime policy and international relations as part of the Italian Navy General Staff, prior to which she served as the flag aide in Operation IRINI, which aims to enforce the UN arms embargo to Libya. Most notably, Bonfà became the commanding officer of a minesweeper ship, the Chioggia, at the age of 33. An anti-submarine warfare specialist, she has served in the future operations branch of the Italian Navy Fleet Command and spent several years on board the Italian destroyer Andrea Doria and frigate Zeffiro. Bonfà took part in the biggest NATO anti-submarine warfare exercise, Dynamic Manta, as well as several maritime exercises and real-world missions, including the EU’s first-ever naval operation, Atalanta. She has also been deployed to Lebanon, where she acted as the deputy commander of the Italian joint multimodal operational unit within a UN-led operation.

Photo of Loubna Bouarfa
Loubna Bouarfa

Chairwoman of the Innovation Board at Envision Pharma Group and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Loubna Bouarfa

A Dutch machine learning scientist turned entrepreneur, Loubna Bouarfa currently holds the position of Chairwoman of the Innovation Board at Envision Pharma Group (ESG). In this role, she focuses on emphasising the broader mission of embedding and excelling AI across EPG. Bouarfa is also the Founder and former CEO of OKRA Technologies, a leading artificial intelligence analytics company in the life sciences sector. With transitioning to a horizontal function within EPG, her expertise will now focus on shaping EPG’s AI strategy and championing EPG’s position as a thought leader in this space. Bouarfa was awarded 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 Brandenburg
Mario Brandenburg

German Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Research, computer scientist and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Mario Brandenburg

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 Brien
Nicolas Brien

Entrepreneur and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Nicolas Brien

Nicolas Brien is a climate tech entrepreneur, leveraging AI to disrupt the waste management industry. He is a vibrant advocate of EU tech sovereignty and has chaired the European Startup Network, the most influential industry group representing start-ups in Brussels. Brien sits on the boards of companies and foundations in Europe and Asia, including Heritage, Vidacity, Tilder and France Alzheimer. He is known for successfully restructuring EuraTechnologies, Europe’s largest startup incubator, and for leading France Digitale, Europe’s largest start-up organisation with over 2,000 start-up members and more than 100 venture capitalists. Prior to joining the digital ecosystem, Brien ran the Direction of Studies at Kantar and was a senior advisor to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem in her role as the spokeswoman of the French government.

Photo of Malcolm Byrne
Malcolm Byrne

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

Show more information on Malcolm Byrne

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

Matthew Caruana Galizia
Matthew Caruana Galizia

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

Show more information on Matthew Caruana Galizia

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

Francesca Cavallo
Francesca Cavallo

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

Show more information on Francesca Cavallo

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

Photo of Anders Bæksgaard Christensen
Anders Bæksgaard Christensen

Editor and Head of Politics, National Security and Public Administration at Politiken and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Anders Bæksgaard Christensen

Anders Bæksgaard is a political journalist from Denmark, who currently co-leads one of the country’s largest newsrooms at the prestigiously regarded newspaper, Politiken. He also heads the daily newspaper’s department on politics, national security and public administration. Bæksgaard has extensively covered the last three general elections in Denmark, while also providing political analysis for DR and TV2, two of the country’s major TV stations. The youngest political editor in Denmark at the time of his appointment, he previously headed the Politiken political editorial office after starting his career at Politiken as a political reporter. Bæksgaard has also covered Danish politics at the Berlingske Tidende daily newspaper’s editorial office and worked as a news coordinator at the Berlingske News Agency, beginning his journalism career as a researcher at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

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Pat Cox

President of the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe, former president of the European Parliament and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Pat Cox

Pat Cox is an Irish politician and former television current affairs presenter. During his political career, he served as a Member of the European Parliament for over fifteen years and also as President of the European Parliament. Among other achievements, he received the 2004 Charlemagne Prize for his efforts in the eastward expansion of the European Union. After his tenure as MEP, Cox became President of the European Movement International in Brussels until 2010 and currently serves as the President of the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe in Lausanne.

Eileen Culloty
Eileen Culloty

Coordinator of the Ireland European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) Hub, and Assistant Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute for Media, Democracy and Society at Dublin City University (DCU)

Show more information on Eileen Culloty

Eileen Culloty currently holds the position of Assistant Professor at DCU’s School of Communications and the Deputy Director of the Institute for Media, Democracy and Society. As a researcher, she is interested in public good aspects of media, including the impact of disinformation and its countermeasures, public interest media, public understanding of media and media literacy, and policy responses to changes in the media environment. Culloty co-authored the book ‘Disinformation and Manipulation in Digital Media’. She also coordinates the Ireland Hub for the European Digital Media Observatory and serves as the the Vice-Chair of Media Literacy Ireland.

Photo of Saška Cvetkovska
Saška Cvetkovska

Co-Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Investigative Reporting Lab and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Saška Cvetkovska

An award-winning investigative reporter from North Macedonia, Saska Cvetkovska co-founded the Investigative Reporting Lab, a non-profit media organisation that operates in the Balkans. As the Editor-in-Chief, she works to increase the impact of investigating reporting by creating new narratives through film and campaigning. Cvetkovska currently produces “Редакција” (“Newsroom”), a documentary series that follows investigative journalists to increase public trust in the media. Cvetkovska has worked on national and cross-border investigations that have exposed domestic and transnational crime, corruption, the illicit trade of arms and disinformation wars. Notably, she was the lead reporter of ‘Spooks and Spin – Information War in the Balkans’, the Organized Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP) project that exposed Russian and US influence in information warfare during the 2016 US presidential election. In addition to offering pro bono training to justice institutions and mentoring young journalists, Cvetkovska has developed the Mediapedia database of media ownership and Getdata, an online tool that maps data resources.

Mihai Danila
Mihai Danila

Senior Investment Manager at the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Mihai Danila

Mihai is a value-oriented investor from the United Kingdom with extensive experience in the financial sector. He is the current Senior Investment Manager at Abu Dhabi Growth Fund. Previously, as Vice-President at BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world, his work focused 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.

Kris De Meyer
Kris De Meyer

Neuroscientist and Director of the Climate Action Unit at University College London

Show more information on Kris De Meyer

Kris De Meyer is a neuroscientist and director of the Climate Action Unit at University College London. He brings insights from neuroscience and psychology to how we tell stories about climate change, communicate about climate risk, and create opportunities for climate action. He trains journalists and communicators in how to tell stories of action, rather than stories of concern. With storytelling studio Fast Familiar and NESTA, he developed The Strategy Room, an interactive story scenario showing the positive future we can create by acting on climate change.

Valentina Diouf
Valentina Diouf

Professional athlete and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

Dorgan Angela
Angela Dorgan

CEO of First Music (FMC)

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Angela Dorgan is the CEO of FMC, the national resource organisation for musicians that run the Irish Music Export Office, Music from Ireland; the Breaking Tunes online music portal; and the annual music industry showcase, Ireland Music Week. She also serves as the Vice President of the European Music Exporters Exchange, where she helped devise a global music export strategy for European music for the European Commission. Dorgan previously chaired the National Campaign for the Arts, which lobbies for increased support, funding and recognition for the arts in Ireland. As chair, she was instrumental in lobbying for the pilot Scheme for Basic Income for Artists and increased funding for the arts and entertainment sector during the COVID-19 crisis.

John Doyle
John Doyle

Vice President for Research at Dublin City University (DCU)

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Professor John Doyle is an expert in comparative nationalist and ethnic conflict. As the Vice President for Research at DCU and the former director of the DCU Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction, he maintains extensive experience in conflict resolution and Irish foreign policy. Doyle plays a crucial role in cross-border collaboration and research programmes in Ireland, including Ireland North-South: a research programme on the Future of the island of Ireland. He also currently serves as the Editor of the Irish Studies in International Affairs journal.

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Daumantas Dvilinskas

Co-Founder and CEO of TransferGo and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A serial entrepreneur and fintech expert from Lithuania, Daumantas Dvilinskas is the Co-Founding CEO of TransferGo, a London-based, high-growth and purely digital global money transfer service. Its innovative digital ‘local in, local out’ business model works with banks worldwide to enable cheaper, faster and safer cross-border money transfers. TransferGo’s main goal is to increase the accessibility of transfers to migrant workers, who make regular payments to their families back at home, by reducing costs and facilitating same-day purchasing power. Dvilinskas challenges monopolies in the banking industry by targeting niche customers with a superior product experience. He has also co-founded Pinevio, a social content discovery platform that enables users to discover content from people with shared interests. Dvilinskas is a recipient of the Global Lithuanian Award, which is bestowed upon Lithuanian diaspora professionals in recognition of their contribution to the economy, science, culture and international presence of Lithuania.

Lukasz Dziekonski
Lukasz Dziekonski

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

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

Colum Eastwood
Colum Eastwood

Member of the British Parliament and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Colum is an Irish politician, who has been at the heart of the post-conflict success in Derry, the second largest city in Northern Ireland. He is currently the Leader of the SDLP and a member of the British parliament. Colum previously served as a member of parliament in the Norther Ireland Assembly, during which time he was appointed SDLP representative on the committee overseeing the work of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. He also sat on the Standards and Privileges and the Environment committees. Colum was elected Mayor of Derry at age 27, making him the youngest mayor to serve the city to date, prior to which he was on the Derry City Council. Throughout his career, Colum has championed Derry as a city of culture and continuously stood against dissident republican violence, calling for an end to terrorist activities by armed groups.

Federico Fabbrini
Federico Fabbrini

Full Professor at Dublin City University (DCU), Founding Director of the Brexit Institute and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

Fearon Kate
Kate Fearon

Founding Member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and Deputy Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre

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Kate Fearon is a Founding Member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, working on the peace process and in the inaugural Northern Ireland Assembly. As the Deputy Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, she is responsible for South Eastern Europe, South Caucuses, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Fearon has worked on the implementation of the Dayton Accords for the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Ahtisaari Plan for the International Civilian Office in Kosovo. She has also worked for the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in Kosovo (EULEX) and Georgia (EUMM), and has joined CSDP missions in Ramallah, Rafah, Somalia, Ukraine, Niger, Iraq and Libya.

Mary Fitzgerald
Mary Fitzgerald

Non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, and Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence & Trustee of Friends of Europe

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Mary Fitzgerald is a researcher and analyst specialising in the Mediterranean region with a particular focus on Libya. She has consulted for a number of international organisations including in the areas of peacebuilding and civil society. She has worked with the International Crisis Group (ICG), the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) among others. She is a Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, an Associate Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, King’s College London and an Associate Fellow at ISPI in Milan. Mary has also worked on wider initiatives with UNESCO, the Anna Lindh Foundation, the British Council and other cultural organisations. Her writing has appeared in publications including Foreign Policy, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Financial Times and The Guardian.

Sean Fleming
Seán Fleming

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland

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Seán Fleming is Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for International Development and Diaspora. He was appointed to this role in December 2022. He previously served as Minister of State at the Department of Finance. Seán was elected to represent the Laois-Offaly constituency at the 2020 General Election, having been first elected to the Dáil in 1997. He was also elected as a member of Laois County Council in 1999 and served in the role for more than 4 years. An accountant educated at University College Dublin, Sean has served on the Dáil Public Accounts Committee. He was also a member of the Finance and Public Expenditure Committee and was Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform.

Markus Freiburg
Markus Freiburg

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

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Together with Ashoka, Markus has founded FASE and established it as the leading European impact finance advisor. Since 2013, FASE has built a successful track record: an investor base with >2,000 impact investors and successful support for >85 European impact ventures, raising EUR >75mn in hybrid growth capital. Additionally, FASE has initiated the European Social Innovation and Impact Fund (ESIIF). The ESIIF is the first financial intermediary across Europe providing impact ventures with patient capital and benefiting from EU-guarantees (EaSI).

Markus is recognized as a thought leader for social finance in Germany and beyond. Markus has an active presence in public discourses (e.g. member of Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship of EU Commission (GECES), Board Member of Impact Europe) and wrote a wealth of articles, reports and case studies on best practices in social finance. He was also selected for the 40 under 40 European Young Leaders Class 2017.

Prior to this, Markus worked for more than 7 years as consultant for McKinsey & Company. Markus studied Business Administration and Economics at the Universities of Witten/Herdecke and Cambridge and received his Ph.D. from the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management.

Edvard Glücksman
Edvard Glücksman

Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Business School and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Edvard Glücksman’s work focuses on the relationship between organisations and the environment. As a Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Business School, he teaches undergraduate modules that connect management and organisational theory to best practice environmental and social sustainability actions. Glücksmanalso leads and supports executive education programmes designed to offer professionals cutting-edge training in climate and sustainability science, and to apply key concepts to their everyday practice and to their organisation’s broader strategy. He has previously worked with large global companies, as well as regional SMEs, and is currently the Programme Director on the Sustainable Solutions Leadership Programme (SSLP) delivered to Capgemini UK. Glücksman is also the academic lead on Future17, an innovative education programme that brings students from around the world together to work on challenges related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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Gustaf Göthberg

Member of the Riksdag and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Gustaf Göthberg is a Swedish politician and represents Gothenburg in the national parliament, where he belongs to the Moderate Party and sits on the Committee of Defence. Passionate about foreign and security policy, he supports stronger EU policies towards Russia and China, as well as defence cooperation and migration policy. Göthberg serves on the Swedish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where he also sits on the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. He is committed to reducing poverty through trade, specifically free trade agreements, and increasing human rights protection for persecuted groups. Prior to being elected to the Riksdag, Göthberg worked on development in Belarus, Russia and eastern Europe at the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation. He has served in several departments within the City of Gothenburg’s administration, as well as the Stockholm County Council. He began his career in politics as a political advisor to the Moderate Party. Additionally, Göthberg maintains a long-standing background at the Moderate Youth Association, where he held roles as the international secretary and foreign policy spokesperson.

Luke Graham
Luke Graham

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

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In his current position as special advisor to the UK government under Boris Johnson, Luke works on fostering greater unity amongst the different countries of the United Kingdom. He was previously a member of parliament for the Conservative Party and served as the parliamentary private secretary to the Cabinet Office. Before entering politics, Luke worked in the private sector as an accountant for over a decade. Upon returning from five years abroad in China, Thailand and the United States, he campaigned for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. He also notably took on the role of finance director for Stronger In, the official Remain campaign during the Brexit referendum. 

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Jasminko Halilović

Founder and CEO of the War Childhood Museum and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Jasminko Halilović is a leading conflict researcher from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who compiled short recollections from people who experienced the Bosnian War as children into “War Childhood”. The award-winning book has now been translated into six languages. He went on to establish the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, the world’s only museum exclusively dedicated to childhoods affected by armed conflict. Awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize, the museum aims to raise awareness of the specific experience through archived materials, from drawings to personal belongings, and motivate adults to consider the consequences of war. Halilović has developed the museum from a small local initiative into an international non-profit with offices in Sarajevo, Kyiv, The Hague and New York City. A serial entrepreneur since his teenage years, Halilović has co-founded several companies. His passion for peacebuilding and entrepreneurship has earned him spots as a keynote speaker and guest lecturer at universities and conferences in over 15 countries.

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Monika Herceg

Writer, editor and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Monika Herceg is a poet, playwright, editor, feminist and activist from Croatia, who also creates and coordinates cultural programmes. Her work explores poverty, domestic violence, migration, and class and gender inequalities. In her debut poetry collection “Početne coordinate” (“Initial Coordinates”), Herceg portrays the lives of women in rural Croatia throughout the 20th century to tell stories of poverty and struggle, recounted through the voices of her own family members. The critically acclaimed collection has been awarded the Goran and Kvirin awards for young poets, the Slavić Award, the Mostovi Struge international award, as well as the Fran Galović Award in recognition of its discussion around homeland and identity. Her drama scripts, short stories and books, including “Lovostaj” (“The Closed Season”) and “Vrijeme prije jezika” (“Time Before the Tongue”), have enjoyed similar successes. Altogether, her works have been translated into over 15 languages and she has received more than 15 literature awards.

Daire Hickey
Daire Hickey

Managing Partner at 150Bond and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Daire is the Managing Partner at 150 Bond, a strategic advisory firm based between New York and Dublin, which advises fast-growing tech companies, venture capitalists and Fortune 500s. He also co-founded Web Summit, Europe’s largest tech start-up event and the largest technology conference in the world. In this role, he has facilitated a number of tech conferences across the United States and Europe. Daire has previously written for top publications in Ireland as a journalist and worked at Irish broadcaster, RTÉ. An active angel investor who also sits on the advisory boards of several companies, Daire has received recognition as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and on the Forbes’ ‘30 under 30’ list.

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Laurent Hublet

Co-Founder of BeCentral and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Nicknamed ‘the philosopher of tech’, Laurent Hublet is a Belgian entrepreneur, who champions investment in human capital and skills as a means to strengthen the social pact between the public and the government. He founded BeCentral, the largest tech campus in Europe in terms of the number of people (re)trained, with the belief that every citizen, regardless of their age, gender, colour or culture, should have the opportunity to become a digital native and an actor of the digital revolution. An angel investor in over 15 digital start-ups, Hublet is also behind the We Are Founders programme, which assists non-entrepreneurs in launching start-ups. In the academic arena, he is the Co-Academic Director of an executive programme at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, which focuses on responsible and ethical approaches to management. Hublet has previously served in the cabinet of the Belgian deputy prime minister and advised on the digital strategy of the federal government.

Toms Jurjevs
Toms Jurjevs

Founder and CEO of Sun Finance Group and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

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Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou

Co-Founder of Velocity.Partners Venture Capital and Found.ation, and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou is an entrepreneur and investor from Greece, who currently works at the intersection of technology, culture and new media. He is the Co-Founder of Velocity.Partners Venture Capital, a pre-seed and seed venture capital fund that currently maintains a portfolio of 22 companies with a presence in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific. As a General Partner, he assists tech companies with the development of disruptive products and services. The fund was born out of Kalavros-Gousiou’s other company, Found.ation, a start-up hub and educational platform that seeks to enable innovation through digital technologies, new business models and cultural shifts. He also founded TEDxAthens, one of the world’s first TEDx events. Kalavros-Gousiou previously worked for HackFwd, a Hamburg-based early-stage fund, where he led the pre-seed investment firm’s pipeline in Greece and south-east Europe.

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Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica

Deputy Speaker and Member of the Latvian Parliament, former parliamentary state secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Trustee of Friends of Europe & 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

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

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Misbah Khan

Member of the Bundestag and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Misbah Khan is a Member of the German national parliament and a representative of the Alliance 90/The Greens party. As a Member of the Committee on Digital Affairs and the Committee on Internal Affairs and Community and also as a Substitute Member of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid Committee, she focuses on topics related to migration, digital administration and bureaucracy reduction. The preservation of human rights in the real world, as well as in the digital space, is essential to Khan. She is resolutely committed to countering right-wing extremism and champions diversity and equal opportunities. Before she was elected to the Bundestag, Khan worked for the Rhineland-Palatinate State Agency for Civic Education and at the Rhineland-Palatinate Democracy Centre.

Image copyright: Nils Leon Brauer

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Julian Kostov

Founder and CEO of JupiterLights Media and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Julian Kostov is an award-winning Bulgarian actor and filmmaker. He stars in the People’s Choice Award-nominated hit fantasy series “Shadow and Bone” and was critically acclaimed for his performance in the historic war drama “Another Mother’s Son”. He has landed roles in “A Discovery of Witches”, “Berlin Station”, “Temple” and “The Toxic Avenger”, among other movies and TV series, which have aired on major networks and premiered in movie theatres worldwide. Experienced in filmmaking, Kostov produced “The Dare”, the debut feature film of his Bulgarian-based production and talent management company, JupiterLights Media Group. Notably, he supported casting for Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”. Established to promote original storytelling, JupiterLights also organises workshops for actors and filmmakers to nurture their empowerment and mental health. He also co-founded the Five Oceans production company to bring Bulgarian, Balkan and Slavic stories to international audiences and tackle stereotypes and underrepresentation in the industry. A man of many talents, Kostov holds over 60 medals in swimming, including a bronze medal from the Balkan Games.

Bella Lack
Bella Lack

Environmental activist and author of "The Children of the Anthropocene: Stories from the Young People at the Heart of the Climate Crisis"

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Bella Lack is a prominent British environmental activist and a leading voice in the fight for biodiversity and the preservation of the natural world. Lack launched the ‘In Your Palm’ campaign at the age of 12, advocating for the protection of orangutans and their habitat. Her activism extends to championing causes such as the welfare of Asian elephants and the prevention of cruelty to animals. Through social media, blogging and thought-provoking articles, Lack educates her generation on becoming responsible stewards of wildlife and offers practical solutions for a more sustainable future. She is also involved in filmmaking and played a role in the documentary ‘Animal’ by Cyril Dion, in which she explores innovative solutions to combat the ongoing mass extinction crisis.

Ivan Lesay
Ivan Lesay

Board Member and Head of Strategy and M&A of ESCO Slovensko, civil servant and fiction writer and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

Mark MacGann
Mark MacGann

Founder of Moonshot Ventures

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Having built and led public policy and communications strategies for technology, telecommunications and financial services industries for the past thirty years, Mark MacGann has successfully challenged the status quo across Europe, the United States, the Middle East & Africa. Mark was revealed in July 2022 as the source of the so-called Uber Files, a global investigation revealing how Uber broke the law, duped police and regulators, and secretly lobbied governments around the world. Since then, he has traveled the world providing testimony to governments, parliaments, and regulators, and works with foundations and human rights activists to encourage stronger protection for whistleblowers and freedom of the press. Mark has been a committed and loyal friend of Friends of Europe since 2004.

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Fabio Mancini

Italian supermodel and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Fabio Mancini is an Italian supermodel. Recruited while strolling through the streets of Milan at the age of 21, he has achieved many industry firsts since his modelling debut on a Giorgio Armani runway. Mancini represented the Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani brands for a record-breaking 15 consecutive years both on the runway and in advertising campaigns. Most notably, he was the face of the Emporio Armani underwear and Armani jeans collections. He is represented by international agencies in New York, Paris, London, Milan, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Hamburg, Vienna and Tokyo. Having modelled for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood, Christian Dior and Massimo Dutti, he has also posed for covers and editorials for top magazines, including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ and Cosmopolitan. An unofficial ambassador of the Italian fashion industry, Mancini is also a philanthropist, who regularly volunteers at children’s hospitals and also tours schools to discuss issues surrounding body shaming and social media networks with younger generations.

Arancha Martínez Fernández
Arancha Martínez Fernández

Founder of, Co-Founder and CEO of The Common Good Chain, and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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 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.

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Oleksandra Matviichuk

Head of the Centre for Civil Liberties, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A human rights lawyer and defender, Oleksandra Matviichuk is the first-ever Ukrainian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. She was awarded the esteemed prize for her work with the Center for Civil Liberties on democratic reform campaigns in Ukraine and the OSCE region. The organisation has been documenting war crimes committed by Russian troops since the initial invasion of Crimea, but also develops legislative changes, exercises public oversight over law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, and implements international solidarity programmes. Matviichuk coordinated the Euromaidan SOS civic initiative to provide legal assistance following the government’s crackdown on Euromaiden protesters, which has since monitored political persecution in the illegally occupied regions of Crimea and Donbas. Matviichuk has led similar campaigns, including #LetMyPeopleGo and #SaveOlegSentsov, to fight for the release of political prisoners detained by Russian authorities. Having authored reports for several United Nations bodies, the Council of Europe, the EU, the OSCE and the International Criminal Court, she received the Democracy Defender Award and is the country’s first female candidate to be nominated to the UN Committee against Torture.

Soheil Mirpour
Soheil Mirpour

Member of the Management Board of Rocket Internet SE, Partner at Global Founders Capital and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Soheil Mirpour 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, Mirpour 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, Mirpour currently works as a mentor in the Deutschlandstiftung mentorship programme and serves on the Board of InteGREATer.

Kensika Monshengwo
Kensika Monshengwo

Intercultural Training Coordinator at the Immigrant Council of Ireland

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Prior to his current position, Kensika Monshengwo worked with the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, under the aegis of the Department of Justice, as Training and Resources Officer. He has extensive experience in intercultural training and has worked primarily with decision-makers from government departments, service providers, private sector employers, media organisations and non-governmental organisations in Ireland and abroad. Monshengwo has also written and disseminated a wide range of advocacy and training materials.

Murray shona
Shona Murray

European Affairs Correspondent at Euronews and

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Shona Murray is a journalist with extensive reporting experience covering European and Irish current affairs, as well as Brexit, international politics, foreign affairs and various international humanitarian crises across the globe. Murray has reported from dozens of countries, including Colombia, Cuba, South Sudan, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo and is a regular correspondent on the Middle East, having reported from Iraq, Gaza, Israel, Turkey and Jordan. Currently an EU Correspondent with Euronews, she has previous written for the Irish Independent.

Leona O'Neill
Leona O’Neill

Journalist and Lecturer at Ulster University

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Prior to her current position, Leona O’Neill spent 24 years as a news journalist in Northern Ireland.  She is a weekly newspaper columnist with the Irish News, a Field Producer for Vice, Al Jazeera, CBC and other television news networks globally. O’Neill is an avid campaigner for better mental health in newsrooms. In 2019, she was standing beside fellow journalist Lyra McKee when she was murdered by a dissident republican gunman during a riot in Derry. Following this event, she faced months of harassment and intimidation following the incident and developed PTSD, and proceeded to co-edit the hugely successful book ‘Breaking: Trauma in the Newsroom’. O’Neill has spoken to audiences in Ireland, the United Kingdom and across the world on the subject of newsroom mental health.

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Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin

Associate Professor at University College Dublin, Chair of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin was nominated by An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin to chair the national Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, the recommendations of which were recently published and presented to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and will now be reviewed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, with a response due from the government by the end of 2023. Ní Shúilleabháin lectures at University College Dublin as part of a programme that addresses the growing need for qualified mathematics and science teachers in post-primary schools. She is a strong proponent of girls studying mathematics and science. Notably, she was awarded the prestigious Ussher Fellowship from Trinity College Dublin for her doctoral thesis on mathematics teacher learning and won the Rose of Tralee contest, an international festival celebrated by Irish communities all over the world. Named among the Top 50 Women in Science in Ireland by Silicon Republic, Ní Shúilleabháin is renowned for her role as a science communicator and for promoting STEM subjects in Ireland through various media outlets, including radio and TV.

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Tahereh Pazouki

Founder of Magrid Learning Solution, CEO of LetzMath and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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An Iranian-Luxembourgish entrepreneur, Dr Tahereh Pazouki founded Magrid, a pedagogical programme that develops and improves cognitive and math abilities by removing language as a barrier to learning, in order to support equal educational opportunities for all learners. The award-winning project was inspired by Pazouki’s research on children with migrant backgrounds and language disorders in Luxembourg’s public school system, which concluded that adapted training can support children who are disadvantaged by an education system in reaching their full potential. The Magrid programme now helps thousands of students in schools across Luxembourg and Portugal with early childhood development in math, visual-spatial and cognitive abilities. It will soon be available for parents all over Europe. Pazouki also founded a start-up, LetzMath, to continue the research and development of educational solutions that champion equal opportunities. In recognition of her innovative contributions to the field of education, she has been the recipient of the World Summit Awards, the European Investment Bank’s social innovation prize, the Creative Young Entrepreneur award and the MIT Solve award.

Christy Petit
Christy Petit

Deputy Director of the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University (CDU)

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Christy Petit is an Assistant Professor at DCU and serves as the Deputy Director of the Brexit Institute. Her expertise lies in EU law, financial supervision and regulation, and central banking. Petit has extensive experience in executive education and policy events in banking and finance. She has previously held a research position at the EUI Florence School of Banking and Finance, prior to which she interned at the European Central Bank and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

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Paweł Radziszewski

Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nevomo and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Polish aerospace engineer with a passion for disruptive technologies, Paweł Radziszewski is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nevomo, a deep-technology company that is developing the next generation of high-speed and freight railways. Radziszewski is responsible for the product, technical and intellectual property strategy, and system-level project supervision. Committed to the sustainable development of the mobility industry, Nemovo is the first company in the world to propose the phased implementation of hyperloop-inspired solutions for railways. Having led the development of Nemovo’s MagRail system that enables magnetic levitation vehicles propelled by a linear motor to operate on existing railroads, Radziszewski plans to take the technology further by developing hyperloop subsystems for the future market and applying the technology to other areas of the industry. He has won several international technology competitions, including the SAE Aerodesign West and Shell Eco-marathon, and is a two-time finalist of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition.

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Olga Richterová

Deputy Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies and 2023 European Young Leaders (EYL40)

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A Czech politician, who serves in the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Olga Richterová is the Deputy Speaker of the parliament’s lower house and former vice-chair of the Česká pirátská strana (Czech Pirate Party). Throughout her political career, she has been a vocal advocate for freedom of information and progressive social, health, housing and urban planning policies. Richterová sits on parliamentary committees concerning social health borders, consumer protection, freedom of speech and the media, foreign relations and military intelligence. Previously, she previously represented Prague’s tenth district as a member of the municipal council and founded a civic watchdog association, Zaostřeno na Desítku (Focused on District Nr. 10), to provide the district’s residents with objective information and increase citizen engagement. In addition to her political pursuits, she has published a collection of poems, “Napříč kůrou” (“Through the crust”).

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Mary Robinson

Former president of Ireland, Chair of the Elders and Honorary Co-President of the Africa-Europe Foundation (AEF)

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Mary Robinson is a prominent Irish politician, widely recognised as having reinvented the office of the presidency during her time as President of Ireland. Mary’s passion for human rights and gender equality have seen her in the role of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy in three roles. Through the Mary Robinson Foundation, as well as her current position at The Elders, she has been a leading voice in the climate justice debate. Mary serves as Patron of the International Science Council and Patron of the Board of the Institute of Human Rights and Business, is an Ambassador for The B Team, in addition to being a board member of several organisations including the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the Aurora Foundation.

Denis Roio
Denis (Jaromil) Roio

Founder of Foundation and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Denis (also known as Jaromil) Roio is a media artist, activist and free software programmer, who founded, a website dedicated to the development of free software. He has made significant contributions to the development of multimedia and streaming applications on the Linux platform and has led R&D activities at the Netherlands Media Art Institute. Roio was honoured with the Vilém Flusser Theory Award for his outstanding digital arts practice.

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Max Siedentopf

Founder of Ordinary and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Max Siedentopf is a German-Namibian multi-disciplinary conceptual artist, who works across video, photography, sculpture, creative direction and more. He founded Ordinary, a quarterly art magazine that reimages ordinary household objects, transforming them into the extraordinary. Siedentopf’s latest artworks also include ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’, a dark-humoured satirical installation that reflects on society’s delusional positive outlook in the face of major crises, and ‘Toto Forever’, an installation in an undisclosed location in the Namib Desert, which earned him acclaim in Vogue Italy as a “viral artist”. He currently creatively collaborates with Gucci on campaigns, brand image and special projects, having most recently led the creative art direction for the Italian fashion house’s experimental online space Gucci Vault. Siedentopf has directed music videos, even starring in one of them, and was nominated by Campaign Magazine among the top ten directors of 2022. He is also the former creative director and youngest-ever partner of the creative agency KesselsKramer.

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Oana-Silvia Țoiu

Chair of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies Committee on Youth and Sports and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Oana-Silvia Țoiu is a Romanian social entrepreneur-turned-politician, who currently serves as a Member of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies and the Save Romania Union (USR) party. She advocates for a more inclusive and entrepreneurial workforce, while championing youth and women. Having successfully passed laws that offer financial support for single-parent doctors during school closures, improved flexible work schemes for employees and housing rights for victims of domestic violence, Țoiu most recently put forward a start-up and private investment package. She previously served as the state secretary in the Romanian Ministry of Labour and Family. Prior to entering politics, she embarked on various social entrepreneurial ventures, including as a former executive at Mesteshukar ButiQ, a network of Roma artisans and international designers. She also co-founded Social Innovation Solutions, an accelerator that invests in educational and future-oriented solutions by engaging and connecting entrepreneurs, NGOs, academia, youth and policymakers throughout Europe.

Tamara Srzentić
Tamara Srzentić

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

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

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Kamilla Sultanova

Kamilla Sultanova, Diversity and Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultant, event host & moderator, and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Through her current work as DEI consultant, and event host with Nordic Edge organisation, Kamilla Sultanova has been an influential voice in Finland‘s Talent Boost programme, aimed at diversifying Finnish companies and establishing talent management programmes for the employment of international students, refugees and immigrants. Her advocacy extends to promoting employment-driven mentoring programmes, anti-racism training, and women’s positions in industries, cities, boards, politics and media through an intersectional lens. Prior to her current roles, Sultanova worked in producing speaker programmes and inspiring dignity-centric leadership for Finnish secondary school students. Sultanova is recognised as one of the top 60 speakers in Finland by the leading speaker agency in the Nordics and a winner of the My Speaker of the Year 2023 award in the ‘Sustainability and Ethics’ category.

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Tijana Tamburic

Co-Founder of Female Narratives and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Serbian storyteller and entrepreneur, Tijana Tamburic is the Co-Founder of Female Narratives, a London-based but globally affiliated creative agency and collective of freelancers that connects brands to real women with real stories. Tamburic was a model herself, signed to one of the world’s top agencies for nearly a decade, but decided to pursue something new in order to work collaboratively with women, rather than in competition with them. Female Narratives has created campaigns for female-led or ethical companies, such as Bumble, Allbirds, The North Face, Merrell and Kiehl’s, and is now composed of over 100 female and non-binary creators, from models and artists, to wordsmiths and choreographers. Tamburic also hosts The Vulnerability Challenge podcast, in which she sets monthly challenges and brings listeners along her journey of vulnerability. Notably, ‘When My Masculine Met My Feminine’, her TEDx Talk on the perceived boundaries of femininity and masculinity, has over 36,000 views.

Dragos Tudorache
Dragos Tudorache

Former chair of the European Parliament Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA)

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In his former position at the European Parliament, Dragos Tudorache analysed the challenges of deploying artificial intelligence and its future impact on the EU economy. Tudorache has a long history of public service in Romania, previously serving as Head of the Prime Minister’s Chancellery, Minister of Communications and for the Digital Society, and Minister of Interior. Before his election to the European Parliament, he held a number of positions at the European Comission, including managing strategic projects such as the Schengen Information System, Visa Information System and the establishment of the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems (eu-LISA).

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Katharina Unger

Founder and CEO of Livin Farms and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Katharina Unger is an Austrian thought leader in sustainability, food and agricultural innovation. Following the success of her first project, Farm432, which was designed to rear the black soldier fly larvae and won the Red Dot Design Award, she founded Livin Farms, a company that turns organic food waste into valuable insect protein. Her fascination with home insect farms began while researching the impacts of factory farming and industrial meat production. Unger believes that a designer must observe the world on a systems level in order to create impact through physical or strategic inventions. She has been awarded the BraunPrize Sustainability Award, the Bio Art & Design Award and the Core77 Design Award, among others, in recognition of her work to identify novel sources of protein and fertilizers. Unger was also named among the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Europe.

Wietse van der Werf
Wietse van der Werf

Founder & CEO of Sea Ranger Service and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

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Gauthier Van Malderen

Founder & CEO of Perlego and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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An ed-tech entrepreneur from Belgium, Gauthier Van Malderen is disrupting the traditional academic publishing industry. He is the Founder and CEO of Perlego, the world’s first digital, subscription-based service for textbooks. Inspired by popular online streaming services, Perlego is a ‘Spotify for books’, offering a library of over one million e-textbooks, plus additional learning resources. The affordable alternative to traditional textbooks breaks down barriers to education for students and also supports the publishing industry’s digital transition. Van Malderen has previously founded several other innovative businesses, including Iconic Matter, a marketing company for university-branded merchandise, and the Teenage Tourist social platform for students to exchange travelling tips. A champion of entrepreneurial ventures beyond his own, Van Malderen continues to support the Belgian early-stage tech ecosystem through investment, knowledge sharing and mentorship as a Member of Syndicate One, a group of experienced start-up stakeholders.

Claudia Vitolo
Claudia Vitolo

Earth Observation Digital Twin Earth Applications Scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA)

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Dr Claudia Vitolo is a senior scientist at the ESA Centre for Earth Observations, where she works on digital twin Earth applications. She previously worked as a scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and as a researcher at various institutions, including Brunel University London and Imperial College London. Vitolo is an expert in geospatial data analysis, web services and artificial intelligence applied to Earth observations, weather-driven disaster forecasting and other environmental applications. She is also an Associate Editor for the Royal Meteorological Society’s Geoscience Data Journal. Notably, Vitolo was awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award for her community contributions.

Vlad Voiculescu
Vlad Voiculescu

Member of the European Parliament, former Romanian minister and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Vlad Voiculescu is a member of the European Parliament, health policy expert and patient advocate, who until recently has served as the Romanian minister of health. After pursuing a career in finance, Voiculescu became active in public service, serving as the Romanian Finance Minister’s chief of staff before becoming the minister of health in the Dacian Cioloș government.  He has been involved in patient advocacy, both at the national and European levels for over a decade. Voiculescu is the founder of an international network of volunteers that helped over 2,500 cancer patients receive essential medicines that were missing in Romania, a story that featured in the HBO documentary The Network’. He is also the Co-Founder of MagiCAMP, which seeks to provide support to children diagnosed with cancer and other serious illnesses. For this work, the European Parliament awarded Voiculescu its ‘European Citizen’s Prize.’

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Marija Vuković

Olympic athlete and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Marija Vuković

A Montenegrin high jump athlete, Marija Vuković made history when she won the country’s first-ever athletic gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where she cleared a 1.91 metre high jump. She has earned the top spot on the podium at the Games of the Small States of Europe five times throughout her sporting career. At the 2021 Balkan Championships, Vuković achieved her current personal best in the high jump, which stands at 1.97 metres and led her to the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she became the first athlete from Montenegro to reach an Olympic final and placed ninth. Since, she has medalled at the 2022 Mediterranean Games and the European Athletics Championships, where she once again made history as the first medallist from her home country. Notably, Vuković was awarded the title of Montenegro’s best athlete by the Montenegrin Olympic Committee.

Darya Yegorina
Darya Yegorina

Founder & Board Member of CleverBooks and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Darya is an Irish entrepreneur and influential global pioneer of the role that ‘augmented reality’ (AR) can play in education. She recently created CleverBooks to provide personalised educational content for students by utilising three-dimensional AR technologies. Darya has been widely recognised for her work, having won the Digital Female Leaders Award in Entrepreneurship as well as being named an Innovator by the Irish Times and a Young Irish Entrepreneur. She has been featured in, Forbes, CBS and many other global media platforms for her efforts to bridge the technology gap in classrooms around the world and boost student outcomes.

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