The potential of collective power

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The potential of collective power


In a week when the British parliament was once again struggling to find a way out of the Brexit deadlock, almost 60 of the brightest young minds in Europe gathered nearby with a more positive agenda: seeking to harness the potential of collective power and secure support for liberal values in the European Parliament elections in May.

Topics over the three-day seminar of European Young Leaders ranged from climate change to renewed superpower space rivalries; social innovation to the future of financial structures in the digital age. Brexit, unavoidably, loomed large. Speakers made clear that the sense of anger and alienation that led the British to reject the European Union is mirrored by voter dissatisfaction across Europe fuelling support for populist movements.

Young leaders stressed the need for new ideas to reverse the trend of voter indifference or irritation and inspire Europeans to reject retrograde populism. They discussed the type of leadership Europe requires and lamented the failure of established politicians to raise to the challenge of these troubled times. There was a recurring sense that everybody has to take responsibility for change; that no action is too small, either at individual or community level; and that long-term thinking is essential for a safe future.

The London seminar held from March 14- 16 was the latest under the annual EYL40 programme co-launched by Friends of Europe in 2011 to bring together 40 of Europe’s most promising talents under 40.


European Young Leaders (EYL40) London 2019



The first meeting of the EYL class of 2019 will take place during one of the most crucial and defining years for the European project thus far. The United Kingdom plans to leave the European Union only two weeks after this seminar is held. that will -symbolically- take place in London. The way Europe deals with that loss in the following months and years to come will be essential for its endurance. On the ubiquitous question ‘Does Europe Matter?’ the European population will voice their opinion during the European elections only eight weeks after the young leaders meet for the first time.

Against this backdrop, the seminar will be given added gravity as we examine our understanding of the European project and assess its strengths and weaknesses as well as our expectations for the future of the Union. However, this much needed debate is in danger of revolving around a narrow dichotomy: pro-Europeans versus Eurosceptics.

In an era in which we are facing global issues that demand quick and effective collective action, such as climate change, migration and growing inequalities, politicians appear to be distracted and paralysed by polarisation. The once omnipresent trust in the rational and stable middle ground of deliberative party politics is disappearing, with people instead opting for strong emotions, populistic rhetoric and big personalities.

In a fast-paced world, which is the perfect breeding ground for insecurity and anxiety, one would think people would crave stability, maturity and dignity in global affairs and public policies. Instead, antagonistic narratives seem to be the only way of conceiving the vote. The political debate has been highjacked by alt-, hard- and far right movements that instigate high-tension debates, in which more moderate voices are losing power and influence. This results in hostile debates between groups in societies, as recently shown in France with the Gilets Jaunes, where raw emotion and occasional violence are no exception.

What is the glue binding Europe together for the future?  How can we convince people of a common purpose, enabling them to be better connected in their needs and concerns? How can we convince people of the notion of a common good? How do we make sure that people ignore what needs to be ignored and keep their eye on the (common) price?

The London seminar is the first of a series of meetings which form the foundation of the 2019 edition of the European Young Leaders’ programme, and its themes have been chosen to reflect the core work of Friends of Europe for this year and into the future. Many of the ideas generated in this seminar will feed into the 2019 workstream of our Europe Matters programme and provide the basis for a series of wider follow-up debates via our online platform Debating Europe and its 3.5 million strong community of citizens.



Welcome buffet lunch Expand Welcome buffet lunch

A moment to welcome the 2019 class of European Young Leaders to their first seminar and an opportunity for them to meet with their peers from the EYL40 community.

CLASS OF 2019 Expand CLASS OF 2019


Meeting the new class and alumni
This session will provide the participants the chance to get to know each other and will help to introduce themselves to the other participants.


Lessons to be learned for the upcoming elections
It can be argued that Brexit has been one of many visible symptoms of current resentments towards the EU. It was rather easy for Brexiteers to convince the majority of the UK that the gap between EU and British day-to-day life is so unbridgeable, that letting go of the ‘bureaucracy in Brussels’ would have no effect on their lives at all. The political and economic uncertainty that accompanied the subsequent Brexit negotiations has proved that ties aren’t easily broken. Increasing numbers of British citizens are realising that they have much to lose when they exit the EU. It is a text book case of not knowing what you have ‘til it’s almost gone.

On the continent, Brexit has pushed many EU proponents in member states to reaffirm their commitment to the European project. Yet, Europeans would be remiss to think that their Union is any less capable of electing a Trump of their own or experiencing another Brexit. The upcoming European Parliament elections offer a golden opportunity for populist leaders such as Salvini and Orbán to stage protest votes aimed at tearing the heart out of the EU. How can we turn this momentum into a historic turning point that revitalises support for European values? How can we make sure that we learn our lesson from Brexit? How do we successfully communicate these learnings and ambitions to voters?

The global economy- perspective Expand The global economy- perspective


Zanny Minton Beddoes

Editor-in-Chief of The Economist

Moderated by

Dharmendra Kanani

Director of Insights at Friends of Europe

Coffee break


The need for collective action in a time of antagonistic politics
The realities of climate change are becoming more and more visible: rising temperatures, declining Arctic sea ice, extreme weather events, heatwaves wildfires, floods, droughts, increased storms and hurricanes and so on. Biodiversity is declining at a rate of more than 100 species per million every year and is due to accelerate as rising sea levels have already submerged five islands in the South Pacific. There is a widespread scientific consensus that climate change is caused by humankind and its greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts say that we can still reverse global warming before 2050, but it will require the world to adopt solutions at an aggressive rate. Global collective action is key but, so far, the world has failed to transcend short-term national interests for the greater global good. Even though climate change mitigation is a common interest, politicians fail to address it in such a manner, instead framing the issue in free market terms.

The Gilets Jaunes in France proved that climate change policies run the risk of being put in the same corner as traditional political divisions, such as urban vs. rural, blue vs. white collar, paralysing urgently needed decision-making. How can we assure that this peril is portrayed as a collective problem rather than a partisan one? How do we push the polarised political debate towards consensus on this topic?


Claire Perry

UK Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Edward Gardiner

Scientist and Behavioural Design Lead at Warwick Business School

Justin Mundy

Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute

Laurence Tubiana

CEO at the European Climate Foundation

Moderated by

Dharmendra Kanani

Director of Insights at Friends of Europe


Voice & Visibility: Gender Power in the Arts
Dinner at the House of Lords, Palace of Westminster with the British Council’s Future Leaders

Hosted by

Baroness Beeban Kidron

film director, producer, founder of 5Rights and member of the House of Lords

Continue to DAY 2

Discussing social innovation in Europe
During this conversation, he will reflect on the current trends in social innovation and the role of collective intelligence herein. How can we combine human and machine intelligence to develop innovative solutions to social challenges? How can we make sure Europe will play a leading role when it comes to making sure innovation is beneficial to society?


Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive of NESTA, former head of policy in the Prime Minister's office under Tony Blair and Director of the Government’s Strategy Unit

Coffee break


Space exploration and the economy behind it

The history of space exploration, in particular human spaceMight, has been inseparably intertwined with politics. During the Cold War, ideological rivalry fuelled the race in order to demonstrate technological superiority. Now—besides China and Russia—Europe, India and Japan also have space programmes that can, and do, reach the moon and other heavenly bodies. But the space race is no longer only about the prestige.

Both the U.S. and Luxembourg just passed laws to legalise mining in outer space— firms that someday manage to mine asteroids would be entitled to own, process, and sell anything harvested. The predicted ‘space goldmine’ of resources that awaits us raises the question: who owns what in space? Furthermore, space technologies have huge commercial applications; satellite technology will provide most of the world’s
access to the internet, something our societies have become heavily dependent on. Given the importance of these, the space industry is projected to grow from $350bn in 2016 to $1.1trn in 2040.

As we face renewed interest in the ‘final frontier’, we must ask: what will the future of space exploration look like? What are the implications for our societies? How do we make sure space exploration doesn’t only serve private interests but becomes a collaborative venture?


Jordi Barrera

Technology Vice President at Open Cosmos, which provides affordable space access with all the tools necessary to develop, launch and operate satellites in orbit

Amara Graps

Founder of Baltics in Space and Head Researcher at Latvia University Institute of Astronomy

Jean-Jacques Tortora

Director of the European Space Policy Institute

Moderated by

Dharmendra Kanani

Director of Insights at Friends of Europe



Air pollution in big cities
Outdoor air pollution is a major environmental health problem affecting everyone in low, middle, and high-income countries. In recent years, large-scale urbanisation and industrialisation has increased the number of heavily polluted cities and areas across Europe. In Europe, nearly every single individual is affected by air pollution with over 90% of citizens being exposed to annual levels of outdoor fine particulate matter above WHO air quality guidelines. The health effects are broad and seriously increase risks of premature death. Air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting annually for 7 million deaths around the world and 400,000 in Europe alone.

Though London’s air may appear clear to the naked eye, the city has suffered from illegal levels of air pollution since 2010, with particularly dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide, coming mainly from diesel vehicles. In April 2019, the city will introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, expending the hours to 24/7 in which vehicles must pay a charge to travel within the area. Despite this initiative, air pollution has proved exceptionally stubborn. Even if vehicle emissions are curbed, issues such as aircraft and agricultural pollution could prove more challenging yet.

In building smarter cities around the world, what are the most effective policies we can enact to best tackle air pollution?


Polly Billington

Director of UK100 - a network of local government leaders

Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah

Leads a campaign to push air pollution on to the political agenda with The Ella Roberta Family Foundation

Audrey de Nazelle

Lecturer on air pollution at Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London

Moderated by

Jane Burston

Head of Climate and Environment at the UK National Physical Laboratory, 2015-2016 European Young Leader


Changing the future of finance
The monetary system is at the core of the economic paradigm that we know today. Almost all transactions are based on an exchange of fiat currency. But money is only valuable as long as we believe that it is valuable and accept and trust this abstract system as a valid payment method. Nowadays, the trust in money and its value is under pressure as faith in this system erodes. In the last 10 years, we have seen how relatively easy it is to defraud, cheat, and lose money in the current financial system. Banks seem to create money out of thin air and easily profit from doing so.

Today, we are closer than ever to a financial revolution that may do away with our traditional monetary system. A cashless society is within reach, diminishing the traditional necessity for banking institutions and creating an opportunity to re-think our financial systems.

How can we use new technologies to improve the system? How can we restore the trust of people? How do we make sure that the future of finance is more beneficial to society?


Paola Subacchi

Professor of International Economics at Queen Mary University of London, expert on international financial and monetary systems

Fran Boait

Executive Director at Positive Money and Director of the Board of Finance Watch

Marta Krupinska

Head of Google for Startups UK, 2019 European Young Leader

Moderated by

Dharmendra Kanani

Director of Insights at Friends of Europe

Coffee break


Discussing what you consider important
This session is an opportunity for Young Leaders to have their say on topics or activities they would particularly like to focus on during the seminar. This open space session is dedicated to the Young Leaders and is about defining and discussing those issues that you think are important to discuss in this day and age with the other Young leaders.

For this session, we are envisioning an unconference format, an open space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. Feel free to think about possible subjects or activities and send over any suggestions you might have.


Dinner at the House of St Barnabas – a members’ club and charity pledging to break the cycle of homelessness and social exclusion in London, located right in the heart of Soho. The history-rich Georgian building is notable for its rococo plasterwork interiors and other architectural features.

Continue to DAY 3


Connecting with EYLs and alumni


Over breakfast, five 30-minute short conversations with European Young Leaders run in parallel on issues that matter to them, to gain expertise from this resourceful network.

1. Feeding the Warchest – How the insurgents keep their coffers full?
with Dawood Azami – Award winning senior broadcast journalist at BBC

2. My Olympic experience – From winning bronze to chairing the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020
with Danka Bartekova – Olympic Bronze medallist skeet shooter

3. The post Brexit European budget battle – Who is fighting for what?
with Aaron Farrugia – Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue in Malta

4. Thoughtful migration – What happens to refugees when they arrive in Europe?
with Annalisa Camilli – Investigative journalist at Internazionale specialising in migration

5. The transformation of retail, online vs. offline, independents vs chains, is there a race to be won?
with Alex Loizou – CTO and Co-Founder of Trouva


1. The power of sounds – Does music make us better people?
with Alicja Gescinska – Philosopher, writer and TV host

2. From here to there – How will we organise transportation in 50 years?
with Andreas Kunze – CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX

3. Resilient Europe – Developing rural areas and a sustainable food policy
with Tomáš Ignác Fénix – Farmer & Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers

4. How youth-led protest and grassroots activism created a progressive path for Ireland
with Una Mullally – Writer, Journalist and LGBT activist

5. The battle for hearts and minds – ISIS’s communication post-territorial loss
with Ayman Mhanna – Executive Director Samir Kassir Foundation

Coffee break


The potential of the collective
Voter turnout has been dropping steadily in European Parliament elections since the first vote was held in 1979. Despite the European Parliament gaining in power and importance following each new treaty, at the last European elections in 2014, only 43% of people turned up to vote compared to 61.99% in 1979.

The motive behind the initial construction of the European project seems no longer evident, creating the opportunity for populists to use the more down-to-earth counter arguments to their benefit. Post-war rationale doesn’t seem to be cutting it for the population en large and the idea of common interests amongst Europeans seems to evaporate in a current debate dominated by identity politics.

Engaging people in the democratic process and regaining their trust is the biggest hurdle facing Europe as it redefines itself during the 2019 elections campaign.

Low voter turnout has partly to do with the language that is reverted to when describing and discussing the European collaboration. How can we develop a dialogue in which the true common interests of Europe resonate with its inhabitants? What are the benefits that we run the risk of losing if Europe were to disintegrate further?


Clément Beaune

Europe and G20 Advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron, 2019 European Young Leader

Klen Jäärats

Director for EU Affairs at the Office of the Prime Minister of Estonia, 2015-2016 European Young Leader

Moderated by

Dharmendra Kanani

Director of Insights at Friends of Europe

Lunch & end of the seminar Expand Lunch & end of the seminar

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

For those interested, a trip to the Tate Modern will be arranged to enjoy its worldrenowned exhibitions and the spectacular view all over London from the 10th Moor. Afterwards, we’ll cross the Millennium Bridge to reach the St Paul Cathedral for the Even Song; an Anglican prayer, sung every evening by a child´s or adult´s choir in the church, highly recommended by EYL’s Eduardo Portal and Alexandra Dariescu.

14.30 – 15.15 Metro to Tate Modern
15.15 – 16.15 Guided tour of the Tate Modern
16.15 – 16.40 Walk to the St Pauls Cathedral
17.00 – 17.45 Choral even song – St Paul’s Catheral

17.45 – 20.00 Free time

20.30 Dinner at Mildred’s in Dalston



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