10 policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract for Europe

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10 policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract for Europe

What happened?

This year’s State of Europe high-level roundtable, Friends of Europe’s annual flagship event and a fixture of the European calendar, issued a clear message on the pressing need for a Renewed Social Contract to revitalise the European project and redefine the roles, relationships and responsibilities of the private sector, government, civil society and citizens.

Policymakers and opinion-formers from across Europe and beyond heard how the current social contract, forged in the post-Second World War environment, needs reform to make it fit for purpose in an age struggling with the challenges of climate change, conflict, migration, inequality, accelerated technological change and an ageing population.

“The new social contract is essential to the discussion we are having […] in Europe,” Karien van Gennip, Dutch Minister for Social Affairs and Employment, told the conference. “We need a strong and a united Europe […] but we also need a strong and cohesive society to be able to deal with all those challenges.”

The roundtable focused on 10 policy choices drafted by Friends of Europe as a basis for the Renewed Social Contract, including using taxation for social good, accelerating carbon reduction, updating the tool kit of democracy and creating conditions for sustainable and inclusive growth.

Throughout the day, sessions honed in on issues such as building healthcare resilience, digitalisation, security and values, and climate change.

Among the concrete ideas to emerge were calls for updated labour laws to ensure greater protection for platform economy workers, increased connectivity to encourage employment in remote rural areas and tougher fiscal penalties for companies that harm the environment.

Speakers underscored the need to bring the public on board with the changes that Europe, and the wider world need, from using data and artificial intelligence to build more effective healthcare, to reforming political decision-making, or legislating for the roll-out of green technology.

“The challenge is huge, it’s not just the green transition, it’s also that we have to become more resilient as Europeans and we have to do both of them by staying democratic,” explained Franziska Brantner, German Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40). “I’m not ready to lose our democracy over the transformation,” she stated.

The State of Europe high-level roundtable welcomed over 300 discussants from the sectors of arts, culture, politics, business, civil society and academia. The roundtable brought together sitting and former (prime) ministers, CEOs, NGO leaders, top European officials, members of parliaments, influencers, top journalists and European Young Leaders (EYL40) in an interactive and inclusive brainstorm – a new way of working to generate new ideas for a new era.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Friends of Europe /Flickr

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Discussants include

Discussants include

Ece Temelkuran
Ece Temelkuran

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

Show more information on Ece Temelkuran

An award-winning Turkish novelist, political thinker and public speaker, Ece Temelkuran is the author of the internationally acclaimed book “How to Lose a Country”. She won the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book award for her novel “Women Who Blow On Knots” and the Ambassador Of New Europe Award for her book “Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy”.  “Together: A Manifesto Against the Heartless World”, her latest book, was recently shortlisted for the Terzani Award in Italy and serves as the basis for lettersfromnow.com, a digital communication project. Temelkuran was a visiting fellow at Saint Anthony’s College Oxford and is currently a Fellow at The New Institute in Hamburg, working on a project “A New Vocabulary for 21st Century Progressives”. She also sits on the advisory board of Progressive International and regularly contributes to Internazionale magazine.

Photo of Sandrine Dixson-Declève
Sandrine Dixson-Declève

Co-President of the Club of Rome

Show more information on Sandrine Dixson-Declève

Sandrine Dixson-Declève is the Co-President of the Club of Rome and divides her time between leading the Club of Rome, advising, lecturing and facilitating difficult conversations. She currently chairs the European Commission, Expert Group on Economic and Societal Impact of Research & Innovation (ESIR) and sits on the European Commission’s Mission on Climate Change & Adaptation. She also sits on several non-executive and advisory boards, including EDP, BMW, UCB Climate KIC, Leonardo Centre and Imperial College London, and is a Senior Associate and faculty member of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), an Ambassador for the Energy Transition Commission (ETC) and the Well Being Alliance (WeAll), as well as a Fellow of the World Academy of Science & Art. Dixson-Declève is a TED global speaker and recently published “Quel Monde Pour Demain” (lucpire editions) and “Earth for All: A survival guide for humanity” (New Society). She was recognised most recently by Reuters as one of 25 global female trailblazers and by GreenBiz as one of the 30 most influential women across the globe driving change in the low-carbon economy and promoting green business.

Photo of Didier Reynders
Didier Reynders

European Commissioner for Justice

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Within his mandate as the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders is responsible for ensuring the rule of law is upheld across the Commission’s portfolio, including the digital transformation, the green transition, as well as the rights of SMEs and consumer empowerment and protection. These efforts include the full implementation and enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its global outreach. A lawyer by training, Reynders has more than 20 years of political experience, having formerly served as the Belgian deputy prime minister, as well as the country’s minister for foreign affairs, foreign trade and European affairs; defence; and finance. He began his political career as a member of the Belgian parliament, prior to which he chaired the Belgian railway company and airways agency.

Photo of José Manuel Albares
José Manuel Albares

Acting Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation

Show more information on José Manuel Albares

José Manuel Albares Bueno is the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain. The career diplomat has previously served as the Spanish ambassador to the French Republic and the Principality of Monaco, as well as the secretary-general for international affairs, European Union, G20 and global security at the presidential office, acting as a sherpa to the president both before the European Union and the G20. He has also been posted to Colombia, France and the Permanent Representation of Spain to the OECD.

PHOTO CREDIT: © European Union 2023 – Source: EP

Pascal Canfin
Pascal Canfin

Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)

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As part of the Renew Group at the European Parliament, Pascal Canfin is a leading voice and advocate of an ambitious EU Green Deal. Previously, Canfin served as the chief executive officer of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) France, where his work focused on biodiversity conservation, the energy transition and agri-food practices. Ahead of COP21, he worked as an advisor to Laurent Fabius to make the Paris Agreement a success. Prior to this, he also worked as a minister delegate for development at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which role he pushed for the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Franziska Katharina Brantner
Franziska Brantner

German Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Franziska Brantner

Franziska Brantner is a German politician, who currently serves as Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. She is also the ministry’s Special Coordinator for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Prior to this, Brantner was a member of the Bundestag and a member of the European Parliament, where her work focused on foreign affairs, conflict resolution and rapid crisis response. She also conducted negotiations on the reform of the European External Action Service. Before entering politics, Brantner worked for the Bertelsmann Foundation and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Karien van Gennip
Karien van Gennip

Dutch Minister for Social Affairs and Employment

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Karien van Gennip currently serves as the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the Netherlands. She is the former Dutch state secretary for economic and has previously served as a member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party. Van Gennip has held various executive roles at ING Group, including as the CEO of ING Bank France. She currently sits on the Board of the CDA in Amsterdam, having previously chaired the Coöperatie VGZ Board of Director and having held various board-level positions at TomTom N.V., the Organe Fund and Zorgverzekeraars Nederland, among others.

Ann Pettifor
Ann Pettifor

Author of "The Case for the Green New Deal" and Director at Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME)

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Ann Pettifor is a political economist and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is best known for predicting the global financial crisis of 2007-9 with her book “The Coming First World Debt Crisis” and for her 2018 book “The Case for the Green New Deal”. Notably, in 2008, she co-wrote the original Green New Deal (GND) together with colleagues from the economics and environmental sectors. Appointed by the Scottish government, Pettifor sits on the Just Transition Commission, an independent advisory body that advises on the delivery of a just transition to a low-carbon economy in Scotland. She also writes a regular newsletter entitled ‘System Change’ on Substack.

Federica Mogherini
Federica Mogherini

Rector of the College of Europe, former high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Federica Mogherini

Prior to assuming her role as Rector of the College of Europe, Federica Mogherini was the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, and vice-president of the European Commission. She previously served the Italian government as minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation. During her time as a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Mogherini was notably head of the Italian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly; member of the Italian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; secretary of the Defence Committee; and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. 

PHOTO CREDIT: College of Europe

Frank Vandenbroucke
Frank Vandenbroucke

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health and Social Affairs, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

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Professor Frank Vandenbroucke is the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health. He has previously served the Belgian government as the deputy prime minister, minister of foreign affairs, minister of social affairs and pensions, and minister of employment and pensions. Vandenbroucke is the former vice-minister-president of the Government of Flanders and has also served as the Flemish minister for employment, education and training. Additionally, he has taken on academic positions at the University of Antwerp, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the University of Amsterdam.

Hanna Liubakova
Hanna Liubakova

Belarusian journalist in exile, democracy activist and Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council

Show more information on Hanna Liubakova

Hanna Liubakova is a journalist and analyst from Belarus. She is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council and has written about the latest developments in Belarus for The Washington Post, The Economist, Deutsche Welle and other international outlets. She is widely recognised as one of Belarus’s leading voices of the free press. Following the 2020 revolution, Liubakova was forced to flee Belarus and was put on the regime’s wanted list. She continued to report on the people’s resistance, including amid the Belarusian regime’s participation in the war against Ukraine. Liubakova also won the 2023 One Young World Journalist of the Year Award and was the 2021 European Press Prize finalist.

Photo of Jasminko Halilović
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.

Photo of Anna Diamantopoulou
Anna Diamantopoulou

President of the Athens-based think tank DIKTIO, former European commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, former Greek minister for education and development, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

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Pascal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

President of the Eurogroup and Irish Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform

Show more information on Paschal Donohoe

Paschal Donohoe has represented the Dublin Central constituency in Dáil Éireann for over a decade, having also previously served in Seanad Éireann and the Dublin City Council. Notably, he is the former minister for finance, for public expenditure and reform, and for transport, tourism and sport, as well as the former minister of state for European affairs. Donohoe was formerly the chair of Ireland’s Future in Europe Oireachtas Sub-Committee, as well as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. As a senator, he was a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and vice-chair of the European Affairs Committee.

Photo of Jamila Aanzi
Jamila Aanzi

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

Show more information on Jamila Aanzi

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

Photo of Samir Abdelkrim
Samir Abdelkrim

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

Show more information on Samir Abdelkrim

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

Photo of Joaquín Almunia
Joaquín Almunia

Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and PSIA-Sciences Po Paris, former vice-president of the European Commission and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Joaquín Almunia

Joaquín Almunia is an experienced politician, who is currently a Visiting Professor at LSE and Sciences Po Paris. As the commissioner responsible for competition policy at the European Commission, he led efforts to control the state aid granted to banks during crisis and to ensure fair competition between businesses and companies. Prior to that, Almunia was responsible for economic and monetary affairs during Barroso’s first mandate as European Commission president.

Photo of 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.

Sari arho harven
Sari Arho Harvén

Futurist, China and geopolitical analyst, leads Business Finland’s and Team Finland’s strategic and participatory foresight work in Europe and Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Show more information on Sari Arho Harvén

Dr Sari Arho Havrén is a Counsellor for Strategy and Foresight under the Permanent Mission of Finland to the EU and heads Business Finland’s geopolitical foresight work in Europe. Based in Brussels, she has lived previously 15 years in Asia, with postings in mainland China, Hong Kong and Thailand. In her roles as an Associate Fellow at RUSI and as a Visiting Researcher at the University of Helsinki, she specialises in China’s international relations and geopolitics. She is a former adjunct professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and held a fellowship at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS). Arho Havrén has published multiple articles, studies, books and commentaries on geopolitical issues, especially about China and the great power competition.

Brando Benifei
Brando Benifei

Member of the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group

Show more information on Brando Benifei

Brando Benifei is a Member of the European Parliament and Head of the Italian S&D MEP Delegation. Benifei is also the Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group, where he works to raise cardiovascular diseases as a priority on the EU political agenda. A member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), he is the rapporteur for the Single Market Programme and shadow rapporteur for the European Social Fund Plus. Benifei received the MEP Award for his work on employment, social affairs and youth unemployment.

Imen Ben Mohamed
Imen Ben Mohamed

Vice-Chair of the Tunisian Assembly Committee on Economic and Financial Affairs, Social Affairs and Education, and 2017 MENA Young Leader

Show more information on Imen Ben Mohamed

Imen Ben Mohamed is a Tunisian politician representing the new face of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda (“Renaissance” in Arabic) in both the Maghreb Shura Council and the Parliament Assembly of the People’s Representatives, where she sits on the Rights, Freedom and Foreign Affairs Committee. Educated in Italy, where her family lived in exile, her strong commitment to youth and family policies has made her a rising political star in a country that still struggles to define itself in the increasingly turbulent landscape of the MENA region. Ben Mohamed is a strong supporter of dialogue between cultures and religions.

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 OKRA.ai 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.

Nicolas Brien
Nicolas Brien

Entrepreneur and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Nicolas Brien

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

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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 myhome.ie, Ireland’s most successful property website. Outside of his professional career, he has completed 37 marathons, including another Dublin marathon last week.

Eleonor Carter
Eleanor Carter

Research Director of the Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab) at the University of Oxford and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Eleanor Carter

A British academic, Eleanor Carter is a Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Blavatnik School of Government and the Research Director of the Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab). GO Lab is a research and policy centre that considers, designs and evaluates new approaches to improve social outcomes. Addressing challenges in public service outsourcing and the structure of partnerships between the government, private sector and other organisations, her research explores the potential of novel contracting arrangements, such as social outcomes contracts and impact bonds, in order to facilitate purposeful partnerships and effective services. A former policy advisor to the United Kingdom’s Cabinet Office on social investment and finance, Carter has also undertaken collaborative research projects with the Department for Work and Pensions. Her research has influenced policy design and evaluation strategies of government departments, and her work has also been published in leading policy journals.

Simonetta Cheli

Director of Earth Observation Programmes at the European Space Agency (ESA) and Head of the ESA Centre for Earth Observation (ESRIN)

Show more information on Simonetta Cheli

Simonetta Cheli has worked at ESA for over three decades and in various roles within the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes. Prior to her current role, Cheli served as the head of the Strategy Programme and Coordination Office for Earth Observation, coordinating with international partners in the field of environment and climate, and with ESA Member States and the European Union, managing the Programme Board of Earth Observation and relations with European partners like Eumetsat and ECMWF. She has also headed the Coordination Office for Earth Observation at the headquarters in Paris, as well as public and institutional relations at ESRIN, covering Italy, Spain and Portugal.


chen qiufan
Chen Qiufan

Science fiction writer, columnist, scriptwriter and author of "AI 2041: Ten visions for our future"

Show more information on Chen Qiufan

Chen Qiufan, also known as Stanley Chan, is an award-winning Chinese speculative fiction author, translator, creative producer and curator. He is the Vice President of Chinese Writers Association Science Fiction Committee and a Research Scholar for MacMillan Center of Yale University. A Berggruen Institute Fellow and Whitney Humanities Center Fellow, Chen has notably been named a World Economic Forum Culture Leader and Asia 21 Young Leader. He also has a seat on the Xprize Foundation Science Fiction Advisory Council. His works include the debut novel “The Waste Tide”, as well as “AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future”, co-authored with Dr Kai-Fu Lee.

Alessandro Chiocchetti
Alessandro Chiocchetti

Secretary-General of the European Parliament

Show more information on Alessandro Chiocchetti

Alessandro Chiocchetti heads the administration of the European Parliament as its Secretary-General, in which role he organises parliamentary business and, together with the European Parliament president, verifies and signs all acts adopted jointly by Parliament and the Council. Previously, he has served as the head and deputy head of the cabinet of the European Parliament. Throughout his career, Chiocchetti has held various roles within the Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union (IPOL), including as the director for legislative and committees’ coordination. He has also served twice as a member of the cabinet of the Secretary-General of the European Parliament.

Photo of Hélène Conway-Mouret
Hélène Conway-Mouret

Member of the French Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces

Show more information on Hélène Conway-Mouret

Hélène Conway-Mouret is a French academic and politician with in-depth knowledge of security and defence issues. She has been a central figure in France’s relations abroad, serving as the Vice-President of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces Committee in the Senate, rapporteur for the budget of the equipment of the Armed Forces, and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of French citizens living abroad. She also founded the Delegation for Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities in the Senate.

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Christian Danielsson

Swedish State Secretary for EU Affairs

Show more information on Christian Danielsson

Prior to assuming his current positions as the State Secretary for EU Affairs and EU Sherpa to the Prime Minister in Sweden, Christian Danielsson served as the head of the European Commission Representation in Sweden. He has held several positions within the Commission, most notably as director-general for neighbourhood and enlargement negotiations, as well as enlargement, and as deputy secretary-general at the Secretariat-General. Danielsson is the former permanent representative of Sweden to the EU and has also previously served as the deputy head of cabinet to then-vice-president Günter Verheugen. Before joining the Commission, Danielsson worked for the Swedish diplomatic service.

Ciaran Devane
Sir Ciarán Devane

Executive Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations and Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for International Relations at Coventry University, and former chief executive at the British Council

Show more information on Sir Ciarán Devane

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

Brian Eno
Brian Eno

Musician, producer, visual artist and activist 

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Brian Eno first came to international prominence in the early seventies as a founding member of British band, Roxy Music, followed by a series of solo albums and collaborations. His work as a producer includes albums with Talking Heads, Devo, U2, Laurie Anderson, James, Jane Siberry and Coldplay, while his long list of collaborations include recordings with David Bowie, Jon Hassell, Harold Budd, David Byrne, Grace Jones, his brother, Roger, on ‘Mixing Colours’ and recently with Fred Again… Eno’s visual experiments with light and video continue to parallel his musical career, with exhibitions and installations all over the globe. He has exhibited extensively, as far afield as St Petersburg’s Marble Palace, Ritan Park in Beijing, Arcos de Lapa in Rio de Janeiro and the sails of the Sydney Opera House. He is a Founding Member of the Long Now Foundation, Trustee of Client Earth and Patron of Videre est Credere. Additionally, he launched EarthPercent, which raises money from the music industry for some of the most impactful environmental charities working on the climate emergency. Eno was recently honoured with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale Musica.


James Farrar

Digital rights activist and Founder and Director of Worker Info Exchange

Show more information on James Farrar

After a career in tech, James Farrar became a labour rights activist for workers in the so-called gig economy. He founded Worker Info Exchange in the United Kingdom, having realised that surveillance and hidden, unfair algorithmic management would be the next stage in the battle for worker rights in the gig economy. Notably, he was a lead claimant in the landmark UK Supreme Court ruling that confirmed worker status for UK Uber drivers.


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

Show more information on Mary Fitzgerald

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.

Zuzana Freitas Lopesova
Zuzana Freitas Lopesova

Czech Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs

Show more information on Zuzana Freitas Lopesova

Zuzana Freitas Lopesová, as the Czech Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, is responsible for the country’s labour agenda, social affairs, housing and housing construction, family policy and integration and refugee assistance. She also served as the Representative of the City of Prague and the Head of Pirates political party’s expert team for labour and social affairs. Lopesová is the former advisor to Olga Richterová, Member of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, prior to which she worked at the Charles University Faculty of Arts as the assistant to the vice dean on project management and grants development.

Jana Havlíková

Czech Deputy Minister of Science, Research and Innovation

Show more information on Jana Havlíková

Jana Havlíková currently serves as the Deputy Minister of Science, Research and Innovation of the Czech Republic, with a portfolio in science diplomacy, trusted research, knowledge valorisation, emerging technologies such as AI and quantum, and the advanced chip R&D ecosystem. Previously, she served at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs as chief advisor and head of the minister’s cabinet, where she focused, among other things, on the sustainability of the social services system. Prior to that, she actively participated in international compensation programmes for victims of Nazi war crimes committed during World War II.

Connie Hedegaard
Connie Hedegaard

Chair of green think tank CONCITO of the KR Foundation and of the OECD's Round Table for Sustainable Development; former European Commissioner for Climate Action; former Danish minister for the environment and for climate and energy; and Trustee of Friends of Europe

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Connie Hedegaard holds several leading positions in support of a low-carbon and green economy. She was appointed Lead of the Mission on ‘Adaptation to Climate Change including Societal Transformation’ for Horizon Europe and also chairs the Board of the KR Foundation, a Danish climate and sustainability foundation. Hedegaard was also the European commissioner for climate action, in which role she led the negotiations for the adoption of the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework and the 2050 Roadmap for moving towards a low-carbon economy, whilst also representing the EU in international climate negotiations.

Martin Hlavacek
Martin Hlaváček

Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Tax Matters (FISC)

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Prior to his current position at the European Parliament, where he notably focuses on issues related to agriculture, food, fisheries and development, Martin Hlaváček worked at Philip Morris. He previously served as Czech deputy minister for Agriculture and head of the Agriculture and Environment Department at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the EU. Hlaváček also worked as a diplomat in Athens, Greece.

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Edita Hrdá

Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the EU

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Edita Hrdá has a long and distinguished career in diplomacy, with over 25 years of experience in the field. In her current capacity, she manages the relations of the European Union with North and South American countries. Prior to her role in the EEAS, she served as the permanent representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations. She also worked in Latin America as the ambassador to Argentina and Paraguay, and has held high-level positions in the Czech Ministry for Foreign Affairs, including as director of the American department and the director of multilateral economic affairs.

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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.

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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)

Show more information on Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica

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

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

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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.

Sony Kapoor
Sony Kapoor

CEO of the Nordic Institute for Finance, Technology & Sustainability, Professor at the European University Institute (EUI), 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40) and Trustee of Friends of Europe

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Sony Kapoor is an influential economist, financial sector expert and development practitioner, who has made a substantial contribution to financial reform and tackling the euro crisis. He currently leads the Nordic Institute for Finance, Technology & Sustainability, which promotes a fair, efficient and sustainable allocation of human, financial and natural capital, and is a Professor of Climate, Geoeconomics and Finance at the EUI. Kapoor is the Chairman and former managing director of the RE-DEFINE think tank, which advises the EU, central banks, large investors, governments, regulators and multilateral institutions on economic, fiscal, investment and financial policy. He serves as an advisor to the UCL European Institute and the UNEP on green finance. Previously, Kapoor worked for ICICI, India’s largest investment bank. He also co-founded the International Tax Justice Network and Europeans for Financial Reform and Finance Watch, as well as launched the inter-governmental Illicit Finance Task Force.

Jamie Kelsey-Fry
Jamie Kelsey-Fry

Co-Founder of Global Assembly and Originator of Cultural Wave

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Jamie Kelsey-Fry followed a 20-year career as a teacher in London’s toughest secondary schools by becoming a prominent political commentator on broadcast news for New Internationalist magazine. He became one of the key characters in the UK ‘Occupy’ movement and began developing new methodologies for participatory democracy assemblies. In this capacity, as an experienced facilitator and expert on participatory processes, Kelsey-Fry has worked with the original Indignados, the Y’En A Marre and the founders of Flatpack Democracy. He helped develop the Extinction Rebellion movement and co-founded the world’s first global citizens’ assembly, chosen by a unique sortition system. The Global Assembly presented six times at COP26. During that time, Kelsey-Fry started Cultural Wave, a global network of artists dedicated to bringing the story of these new governance infrastructures into peoples’ lives through popular culture, which has brought him to work with Brian Eno, Sir Mark Rylance, Es Devlin, Andrea Arnold, Jeremy Dellar and Ece Temelkuran.

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.

Miroslav Lajčák
Miroslav Lajčák

EU Special Representative for the Serbia-Kosovo Dialogue, former Slovakian deputy prime minister and former president of the United Nations General Assembly, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Miroslav Lajčák

Miroslav Lajčák has more than 30 years of experience in foreign policy, having dedicated his professional life to diplomacy, representing both the Slovak Republic and the international community. He has served as the Slovak foreign and European affairs minister four times, as well as the ambassador to Japan and several southeastern European countries. Lajčák was also the executive assistant to the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Balkans and has held several other supporting positions in institutions such as the EEAS, the UNGA and the OSCE.

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António Leite

Portuguese Secretary of State for Education

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António Leite currently serves as the Secretary of State for Education in Portugal. Previously, he was the representative of Portugal on the Governing Board of the European Training Foundation, the coordinator of the National Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan and the official delegate of Worldskills Portugal. Leite was the vice-president of the Board of Directors of the IEFP, IP, the national public employment service. He has also acted as an advisor to the Portuguese state secretaries for education and for educational administration.

María Lledó Laredo

Spanish Secretary General for the European Union

Show more information on María Lledó Laredo

María Lledó Laredo is the Secretary General for the European Union at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in Spain. She previously served as the director-general for the internal market and other community policies and as the deputy director-general for cultural promotion abroad at the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, among other functions. At the Spanish Representation to the European Union, Lledó Laredo has also held posts as the deputy permanent representative to the Political and Security Committee and as a parliamentary affairs adviser. She has extensive experience in Spanish legations abroad in London, Morocco, Algeria and Colombia.

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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.

Mario Monti
Mario Monti

Italian Senator for life, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, former Italian prime minister, former European commissioner and Trustee of Friends of Europe

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As the Chair of the World Health Organization (WHO) Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, Mario Monti spearheads attempts to rethink health policy priorities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A distinguished economist and Italian lifetime senator, Monti has cemented his reputation as a committed supporter of the single currency and a talented negotiator, leading a government of technocrats in the wake of the Italian debt crisis in late 2011. He chaired the High-Level Group on Own Resources, a consultative committee of the European Union, aimed at proposing new forms of revenue for the European Union’s budget, which resulted in the final ‘Future Financing of the EU’ report arguing for new tax sources.

Pia Henrietta Moon
Pia Henrietta Moon

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

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Pia Henrietta Moon is the Co-Founder and CEO of Carbo Culture, a climate technology company on a mission to remove one billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually. Carbo Culture removes carbon by converting CO2 from plant waste into a stable form of carbon, also generating renewable energy and carbon credits in the process. Carbo Culture’s breakthrough carbon removal solution solves key scalability challenges of the carbon removal industry. Her prior experience includes growing two organisations in ed-tech: Mehackit, which provides creative technology courses for youth to experience building technology, and Rails Girls, a global non-profit that organised open-source weekend workshops for women to dive into the world of technology. Given her management expertise, Moon was the youngest board member of a publicly traded company in Finland, YE International. Named a Bloomberg New Economy Catalyst, she is also an alumna of Stanford’s StartX founder community.

Marco Piccitto
Marco Piccitto

Director at McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)

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Marco Piccitto is a Director at the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) and a Managing Partner at the McKinsey & Company Mediterranean office. In addition to leading global research, Piccitto advises European financial and industrial institutions on a broad range of risk-management, business strategy and transformation issues. His recent projects include helping companies undergo transformations and developing the credit model for several European banks. In 2021, as part of the G20 under the Italian presidency, Piccitto participated in the B20 Business Summit and supported the Action Council on Sustainability and Global Emergencies Policy Paper. Prior to joining McKinsey, he was a lecturer at Italy’s University of Calabria on the subject of financial instruments.

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Andris Piebalgs

Senior Fellow at the Florence School of Regulation, former European commissioner for development and energy, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Andris Piebalgs

Andris Piebalgs is an experienced Latvian politician who occupied key positions at both the national and European levels. He is currently a member of the Latvian political party UNITY. Previously, he worked in the Latvian diplomatic service, first serving as the Latvian ambassador to Estonia, where he helped resolve a sea border issue between the two states. He went on to become the Latvian ambassador to the EU, in which role he helped establish Latvia as the EU candidate country. Afterwards, Piebalgs served as the European commissioner for energy and then as the European commissioner for development.

Dragoș Pîslaru
Dragoș Pîslaru

Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) and former Romanian minister of labour, family, social protection and the elderly

Show more information on Dragoș Pîslaru

Dragoș Pîslaru is a Romanian economist and politician. He serves as a member of the European Parliament on behalf of USR PLUS, affiliated with the European political group, Renew Europe. He sits on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and Subcommittee on Tax Matters (FISC). Pîslaru is also the co-rapporteur on the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the largest financial instrument created by the European Union for the economic recovery of the bloc after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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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.

Andrea Rappagliosi
Andrea Rappagliosi

Senior Vice-President of Public Affairs for EMEA, Canada and LATAM at Edwards Lifesciences

Show more information on Andrea Rappagliosi

A member of the regional executive leadership team at Edwards Lifesciences, Andrea Rappagliosi leads the company’s government affairs, market access, communication and patients advocacy engagement. He previously worked at Sanofi as the vice-president of European public affairs, prior to which he held positions in the public affairs and market access policy area at Baxter Healthcare, Serono International and GSK. A founding member of the Global Policy Forum at HTAi, the scientific and professional society for those who produce or use health technology assessment (HTA), Rappagliosi currently chairs the MedTech Europe HTA Committee and serves on the Board of the European Patient Safety Foundation (EUPSF).

Joakim Reiter
Joakim Reiter

Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer at Vodafone and former deputy director general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

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As Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer, Joakim Reiter is responsible for Vodafone’s public relations and corporate affairs, including policy and regulation, communications, security, sustainability and charitable activities. He is an Advisory Board Member of the World Trade Institute and sits on the Board of the Swedish Space Corporation and the EU’s Horizon Mission Board for climate-neutral and smart cities. Previously, Reiter served as the assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Prior to this, he spent over 15 years in Sweden’s foreign service, including as deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ambassador to the World Trade Organization and at the Permanent Representation to the European Union. Reiter has also served as an EU negotiator at the European Commission Directorate General for Trade (DG TRADE).

Denis "Jaromil" Roio
Denis (Jaromil) Roio

Founder of Dyne.org Foundation and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Denis (Jaromil) Roio

Denis (also known as Jaromil) Roio is a media artist, activist and free software programmer, who founded Dyne.org, 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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Tiago Sá

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

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An engineer and social entrepreneur from Portugal, Tiago Sá is the Co-Founder and CEO of Wisecrop, a web-based operating system on a mission to support the productivity, sustainability and efficiency of farm management through the use of technology. Wisecrop provides farmers and other agricultural professionals with integrated, real-time data related to the weather, irrigation, soil nutrition and fertilisation, crop health, as well as field and labour operations and costs, in order to maximise field profitability and reduce the negative environmental impacts of agricultural practices. Recognising the challenges of digitalising a sector that is traditionally slow to adopt change, Sá combines environmental and business incentives to unlock disruptive tech solutions, while also ensuring that Wisecrop features a simple and user-friendly interface. Since its inception over seven years ago, Sá has overseen the company’s growth to assist over 60k hectares of more than 250 different varieties of crops, with plans to push for the modernisation of the agri-food industry across Europe.

Rami Sabanegh
Rami Sabanegh

Vice President of Strategy for Europe at The Coca-Cola Company

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Rami Sabanegh is the Vice President of Strategy at Coca-Cola Europe and serves as a member of Coca-Cola’s European leadership team, where he leads business analysis, strategy, insights and strategic transformation for 40 countries. With a background in management consulting, Sabanegh joined Coca-Cola European Partners (now Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world) and led transformation efforts while living across multiple western European countries, from the Nordics to Belgium and Germany to the United Kingdom. Sabanegh then moved to The Coca-Cola Company as the director of strategy and insights for western Europe before moving to his current role in Ireland, driving strategy and transformation across Europe.

Sabin Sărmaș
Sabin Sărmaș

Chairman of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies Committee for Information and Communications Technology (IT&C) and former president of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference

Show more information on Sabin Sărmaș

Throughout his professional career, Sabin Sărmas has been actively engaged in both public and private organisations within the digital sector, with a focus on the governance of the information and knowledge society. He is currently a Member of the Romanian Parliament, where he serves as the Chairman of the IT&C Committee. Additionally, Sărmas recently served as the president of the Plenipotentiary Conference 2022 of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), held in Bucharest. He is the former president of the National Authority for Digitalization, in which role he was responsible for coordinating and implementing national policies, strategies and projects related to information technology, communications and the digitalisation of public services. Sărmas has also worked in the private sector as a software engineer and business developer for various companies.

Nicolas Schmit
Nicolas Schmit

Party of European Socialists (PES) Common Candidate

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Nicolas Schmit is a Luxembourgish politician and diplomat, who has been instrumental in fostering Europe’s social dimension in his position as European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights. An economist by training, he is a former member of the European Parliament and previously served as the Luxembourgish minister of labour. He has also held various positions within the Luxembourgish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including as head of the Department of International Economic Relations and Cooperation. Schmit’s final diplomatic posting was as Luxembourg’s permanent representative to the EU.

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Jamie Shea

Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence at Friends of Europe, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

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Retiring from NATO in September 2018 after 38 years at the organisation, Jamie Shea has occupied a number of senior positions at NATO across a wide range of areas, including external relations, press and media, and policy planning. As NATO’s spokesperson, he was the face of the alliance during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts. He later worked as the director of policy planning in the private office of former secretary general Rasmussen during the preparation of NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept. Shea is also a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs.

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

First democratically elected female head of state in Africa, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Honorary Co-President of the Africa-Europe Foundation

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Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the world’s first elected black female president and Africa’s first elected female head of state. Ellen began her political career in William Tolbert’s government as Deputy Minister of Finance in 1971. After Samuel Doe seized power in a coup d’état, Ellen fled to the United States. Returning to Liberia, she won the 2005 presidential election and remained in office until 2018. In 2016, she was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), making her the first woman to hold the position since it was created. In 2011, Ellen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman, “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.

Despina Spanou
Despina Spanou

Head of Cabinet of the European Commissioner for Promoting Our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas

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A lawyer by training, Despina Spanou has spent most of her career at the European Commission, where she has covered different portfolios, spanning consumers’ rights, competition law, health, digital and cyber-security. In her current position, together with European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, she proposed the creation of a European Health Union to jointly respond to current and future health crises and strengthen Europe’s crisis management against cross-border health threats.

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Bart Staszewski

LGBTQI+ activist, Founder & CEO of the Basta Foundation and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Bart Staszewski is a Polish filmmaker and fierce champion of LGBTQI+ rights. His “Article 18” documentary details the LGBTQI+ struggle for equality in the country to showcase that the government has failed to introduce legislation that protects same-sex relationships. Staszewski was among the organisers of the first-ever Equality March and went on to establish an association of the same name. He also belongs to Miłość Nie Wyklucza (Love Does Not Exclude), an organisation that fights for marriage equality, and serves as the Co-Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board at the Basta Foundation, which monitors homophobic and transphobic hate speech in Polish media. Notably, Staszewski created the internationally acclaimed “Zones” photography project to remind politicians of their LGBTQI+ constituents and protest the infamous ‘LGBT-free zones’ in approximately 100 Polish municipalities. He was named an Obama Leader for Europe by the Barack Obama Foundation and among the TIME100 Next rising individuals.

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh
Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh

Mayor of Malmö

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Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh is the Mayor of Malmö and the first woman to hold the mayor’s office in Sweden’s third largest city. Before assuming office, she served as the deputy mayor in charge of education, as well as welfare and security issues. She has previously worked as a communications consultant as well as an editorial writer. Stjernfeldt Jammeh was recently recognised as the most influential local politician in Sweden and currently serves as the First Vice President of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

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Ivan Štefanec

Member of the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and President of SME Europe

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Ivan Štefanec is a Member of the European Parliament, where he sits on the Committee for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO). He is also a substitute in the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee. As the President of SME Europe, Štefanec focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises, employment, entrepreneurship and the (digital) single market. Before entering politics, he worked at Coca-Cola Beverages Slovakia as a financial director and executive director. Štefanec later also became the director of European integration at Coca-Cola HBC in Vienna.

Paul Tang
Paul Tang

Paul Tang, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Economy and Monetary Affairs

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Paul Tang currently holds the role of Member of the European Parliament for the Socialists and Democrats. He is a member of the parliamentary committees on economy and monetary affairs, budget and industry & energy. Tang has led research at the Dutch Centraal PlanBureau and contributed to the ongoing discussions on how the economic growth and the social welfare state relate to each other, worked on climate change policies and authored political-economic scenarios for Europe. Interested in the impact of political choices on the lives of people, Tang ran as MP for the Dutch Labour Party and served for four years as a spokesperson on financial and fiscal affairs. In the European Parliament, Tang battles for more jobs for Europe, a healthy financial sector at the service of society and more legitimacy for Europe.

Pedro Tavares
Pedro Tavares

Portuguese Secretary of State for Justice

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Pedro Tavares is currently serving as the Portuguese State Secretary for Justice. Previously, he worked as the general coordinator at eBUPi – Simplified Land Digital Registry Mission Unit, the Portuguese public agency responsible for the expansion of a new cadaster and registry initiative using a digital approach. Tavares also held positions as a senior advisor on the cabinets of the Minister of Justice and of the State Secretary for Justice, where he managed different innovation and transformative projects and policies, including a Justice Innovation Lab, transparency and participation projects, and new digital citizen-centric services. Prior to working in the public sector, he also gained experience in the private sector as a marketing and innovation director at various IT companies, including Vision-Box, PHC Software and Inetum. Moreover, Tavares was a digital marketing and communications lecturer and trainer at INA, Lisbon Digital School, Universidade Católica Portuguesa and Instituto Politécnico de Santarém.

Gerassimo Thomas
Gerassimos Thomas

European Commission Director-General for Taxation and Customs Union (DG TAXUD)

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Prior to his current assignment, Gerassimos Thomas served as the Greek deputy minister for environment and energy. He has held various positions at the European Commission, including as deputy director-general for energy, director of finance at the European Commission Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), head of cabinet and spokesperson for the economic and monetary affairs commissioner, and deputy spokesman for the Commission president. He is the former chair of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) Steering Board and previously sat on the board of directors of the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund.

Dragos Tudorache
Dragos Tudorache

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

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In his current position at the European Parliament, Dragos Tudorache analyses 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).

Dr Cristina Vanberghen

Senior Expert at the European Commission and Professor (Fellow) at the European University Institute (EUI)

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An expert in digitalisation, AI, consumer policy and cybersecurity, Cristina Vanberghen is an academic and political commentator, now based at the EUI in Florence, where she focuses on the geopolitics of digitalisation and EU digital law. She also works as an expert with the European Commission. Notably, Vanberghen has received EEAS recognition for her pivotal role in advancing digital diplomacy within the frameworks of the G20. She has also made impactful interventions as a speaker on the Comparative Aspects of Digitalisation between Europe and the Indo-Pacific Region at the EUI and as a speaker at the 2024 “Scholars Programme on EU-ASEAN Relations” (SPEAR), organised by the Delegation of the European Union to ASEAN. Her extensive travels throughout Asia, including ASEAN countries underscore her commitment to fostering international dialogue and cooperation. Previously, Vanberghen has also served as a diplomat at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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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.

Stientje van Veldhoven

Global Vice President and Regional Director for Europe at the World Resource Institute

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Stientje van Veldhoven is the Global Vice President and Regional Director for Europe at the World Resource Institute and is currently based in the Europe Regional Office in The Hague. Van Veldhoven has been a prominent politician in the Netherlands, most recently serving as a member of the cabinet responsible for public transport and environment and as the minister for the environment and housing. She has also previously served as a member of the Dutch parliament and as an international diplomat, representing the Dutch government in the European Union in Brussels. Her career is characterised by longstanding involvement in environmental issues, especially those related to climate change, energy and the circular economy.

Ruben van Zwieten
Ruben van Zwieten

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

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

Gaia Vince
Gaia Vince

Award-winning science writer, journalist, broadcaster and author of "Nomad Century"

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Gaia Vince is a science writer and broadcaster, who explores the interplay between human systems and the planetary environment. She is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Anthropocene Institute at University College London (UCL) and a host of BBC Inside Science. Her first book, “Adventures In The Anthropocene”, won the Royal Society Science Book of the Year Prize. Her latest book, “Nomad Century: How To Survive The Climate Upheaval”, explores global migration and planetary restoration in a radical call to arms.

Photo of Ben Wreschner
Ben Wreschner

Chief Economist at the Vodafone Group

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Ben Wreschner is the Chief Economist for Vodafone Group. Having been in the digital sector for 20 years, he has worked extensively in the policy and public affairs environment representing Vodafone at key meetings with various institutions. Wreschner is also the Chairman of the European Policy Group for the GSMA mobile industry association.

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