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Bold leadership, ground-breaking ideas, unparalleled passion …

For almost a decade the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme has brought together the brightest minds and outside the box leaders to put their innovative thinking to work at building a more forward-thinking Europe that is a global champion for a better world. The European Young Leaders represent a new generation of leaders, able to tackle the increasing disconnects between citizens and political elites, to rebuild the trust that is vital to democracies.

These promising and established leaders come from a variety of backgrounds including politics, business, civil society, arts, science and the media.

The 2020-2021 Class of European Young Leaders:


Tune in to the EYLs on Friends of Europe’s Leading Views podcast

Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

Leading view

Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

Joss Garman

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Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

Leading view

Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

Negar Mortazavi

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Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

Leading view

Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

Una Mullally

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Continue to Meet the EYL

Meet the EYL40

Aaron Farrugia
Aaron Farrugia

Maltese Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Aaron was elected to the Maltese Parliament in June of 2017, and appointed Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue within the Ministry for European Affairs. Before his current position, Aaron ran the Malta Freeport, the first transhipment hub in the Mediterranean. He served as president of the Labour Youth Forum and was elected deputy mayor of Ta’ Xbiex in 2005. During the international financial crisis, he was appointed to a team of economic experts set up by the Young European Socialists and was elected as Education Secretary in the Maltese Labour Party’s Central Administration. Aaron also chaired the progressive think tank IDEAT, the party’s political foundation. In 2014, he founded the Anton Buttigieg Foundation, which seeks to promote social awareness in Malta, focusing on education as the primary tool for economic and social development.

Photo of Myriam François
Myriam François

International News Correspondent, TRT World and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Myriam is an academic, broadcaster and writer specialising in issues related to Islam and the Middle East. She is a regular contributor to the Middle East Eye, the New Statesman and the Telegraph. In 2014, she broke a headline story on an exclusive 36-page document written by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al-Qaeda militant behind the 9/11 attacks. Since then, she presented two BBC documentaries, ‘The Muslim Pound’ (2016) and ‘A Deadly Warning: Srebrenica Revisited’ (2015) nominated for the Sandford St Martin religious programming award. Myriam is also a Research Associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies at SOAS University, where she focuses on British-Muslim integration issues. She recently completed her doctorate at Oxford University on the subject of Islamic political movements in Morocco.

Markus Freiburg
Markus Freiburg

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

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Markus is the Founder of the Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE), a leading financial intermediary that helps social enterprises scale their social impact by helping them raise hybrid growth capital. FASE has built an open pipeline of investment-ready social enterprises and closed sixteen transactions leveraging around €6m in impact investments. Markus is also a member of the Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES), a consultative multi-stakeholder group on social business that examines the progress of measures foreseen by the European Commission. He has experience of working with many social enterprises in finding appropriate financing solutions and scaling-up the impact of proven business models. Markus worked for seven years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where one of his roles was providing pro-bono consulting for social entrepreneurs.

Photo of Mehdi Hasan
Mehdi Hasan

Journalist, Broadcaster and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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An award-winning journalist and political commentator, Mehdi is the host of The Mehdi Hasan Show on Peacock and MSNBC, and the presenter of the Head to Head, The Café and UpFront shows on Al Jazeera English. Prior to this, he hosted The Intercept’s Deconstructed podcast and was the political editor at Huffington Post UK. At the start of his career, Mehdi worked as a researcher and producer for several programmes on London Weekend Television (LWT), BBC One, Sky and Channel 4. He has been named among the 100 most influential Britons on Twitter and was included in the annual global list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. Mehdi is also the recipient of the British Muslim Award’s Services to Media award. In addition to having authored a book on debt and the 2008 financial crisis, Mehdi is the co-author of a biography of the former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.

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Owen Jones

Author, Columnist, Commentator & Political Activist for the Guardian and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Owen is an author, commentator and political activist. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian, having previously written for the Independent. He has made several television appearances on the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky News as well as on ITV’s Daybreak and BBC One’s ‘Question Time’. His work also appeared in several publications, including the Sunday Mirror and Le Monde diplomatique. In 2011, Owen published his first book, ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’, which received favourable critical reviews, including from the New York Times. He was named one of the top 50 Britons of the year by the Independent on Sunday in 2011 and was awarded the Young Writer of the Year prize at the Political Book Award in 2013.

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Kaja Kallas

Prime Minister of Estonia and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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As of January 2021, Kaja Kallas is Estonia’s first female Prime Minister. A competition lawyer by profession, Kaja was elected Member of the Estonian Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Economic Affairs in 2011. After being elected to the European Parliament in 2014, she became a prominent proponent of innovation and frequently emphasised that regulations should not hinder the technological revolution. She authored five reports in the European Parliament, including of an own-initiative report on the Digital Single Market. Kaja left the European sphere in 2018 to become leader of Estonia’s Liberal Reform Party.

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Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica

Parliamentary Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Zanda is a Latvian politician and serves as the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia. Her role is to ensure cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Latvian Parliament and the European Parliament. She also represents the Latvian government at the EU Foreign Affairs Council meetings of development and trade ministers. Zanda also currently chairs the Consultative Board for Development Cooperation Policy of Latvia and sits on the board of European Movement – Latvia, a non-profit organisation. She previously served as a member of the Latvian parliament and chaired the Committee on European Affairs Committee and the Innovation and Research Subcommittee during her mandate. Zanda 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.

Neža Kogovšek Šalamon
Neža Kogovšek Šalamon

Head of Individual Complaints Department at the Advocate of the Principle of Equality and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Neža Kogovšek Šalamon is a human rights advocate with experience at the national and international levels. She is the former director of the Peace Institute, a non-profit research body that aims to create and preserve an open society based on the principles of equality, human rights, responsibility, solidarity and the rule of law. Her work at the institute included legal research, advocacy and teaching, and her fields of research interests spanned from international law and fundamental rights, to asylum and migration law. Neža currently serves as a member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), as well as the European Network of Legal Experts in the Non-Discrimination Field, the European Commission on Sexual Orientation Law (ESCOL) and the Odysseus Academic Network, among others. She is also a member of several legal expert networks, which advocate for anti-discrimination, social inclusion and better representation of immigrants.

Fatima Moreira de Melo
Fatima Moreira de Melo

Founder, Fatima Performance BV and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Fatima is a professional field hockey player. She has played for the Dutch national team in international tournaments and for several teams such as Tempo ’34, HGC and HC Rotterdam in Dutch national competitions. She was a member of the Dutch national team that won the 2006 Women’s Hockey World Cup and the 2007 Hockey Champions Trophy. After a bronze medal in Sydney in 2000 and a silver medal in Athens in 2004, Fatima won a gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing. In 2006, she was named Rotterdam Sportswoman of the Year. In addition to field hockey, she presented TV programmes on local and national networks.

Photo of Katarzyna Nawrot
Katarzyna Nawrot

Member of Polish Academy of Sciences Committee for Future Studies Poland 2000 Plus and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Polish economist, Katarzyna is currently a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences Committee for Future Studies Poland 2000 Plus. Her research interests include development, cultural and international economics, with a focus on East Asian markets. Katarzyna’s work also explores challenges to global development. Having lectured at universities across Asia, Africa and Europe, she has worked on several research projects for the European Commission and the National Bureau of Research in Poland, among other international institutions, as well as national and local governments. Her academic achievements have been recognised by numerous awards, including one for outstanding young scholars from Poland’s Minister of Science and Higher Education. Katarzyna has published numerous articles and books on issues relating to development, governance, integration and regional cooperation, most recently having co-edited “The Rise of Megacities: Challenges, Opportunities and Unique Characteristics”.

Photo of Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin
Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin

Lecturer at the University College Dublin School of Mathematics and Statistics and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Over the past ten years, Aoibhinn has promoted mathematics and science with a particular focus on encouraging more girls to study these subjects. She lectures at University College Dublin as part of a programme that addresses the growing need for qualified mathematics and science teachers in post-primary schools. In 2011, she was awarded the prestigious Ussher Fellowship from Trinity College Dublin for her doctoral thesis on mathematics teacher learning. Named as one of the Top 50 Women in Science in Ireland by Silicon Republic, she is renowned for her role as a science communicator and for promoting STEM subjects in Ireland through various media outlets, including radio and TV. In 2005, she won the Rose of Tralee contest, an international festival celebrated by Irish communities all over the world.

Julia Obermeier
Julia Obermeier

Resident Representative of the Hanns Seidel Foundation and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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As the Resident Representative at the political research foundation associated with the Christian Social Union (CSU), Julia works on projects related to strengthening civil society, civic involvement and the rule of law, among other topics, in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Prior to her current role, Julia was elected and served as a member of the German federal parliament at the age of 29. Her political work focused on defence and security policies as a member of the Committee on Defence, which played an important part in the adoption of the defence budget and the procurement of materiel for the armed forces. Julia started her career as a lecturer at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich before joining the office of the CSU, where she held several political positions at the local level. As a member of the CSU policy committee, she played an important role in drafting the new party manifesto.

Sébastien Pilard
Sébastien Pilard

Member, Pays de la Loire Regional Council and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Sébastien is a young businessman and entrepreneur. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Terminal du Grand Ouest (TGO), a port operations company in the Nantes-Saint Nazaire port area that covers bulk, container and general cargo activities. He manages a team of more than 150 employees at TGO. Sébastien was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special representative on the economy and business during his campaign to win the Republican nomination for the 2017 presidential election. Sébastien is regional councillor in the Pays de la Loire region and will be an official candidate of the Republicans party in the upcoming 2017 legislative elections. He is also the co-founder of Sens Commun, a right-wing youth movement that defends conservative family values.

Photo of Eduardo Portal Martin
Eduardo Portal Martin

Founding Member and CEO of Passion for Conducting Academy and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Eduardo is a conductor and violinist, who founded the Conducting Academy, an online academy to share valuable information with those passionate about conducting. Having made his debut and conducted over twenty performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and throughout England, Eduardo has been invited to conduct orchestras across Europe and the Americas, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Madrid and Valencia Symphony Orchestras and Sao Paulo Estate Symphony Orchestra, among others. Widely acclaimed by musical critics and particularly committed to contemporary repertoire, Eduardo also founded and serves as the Music Director of Antares Ensemble in Spain, which focuses on the performance of new music and studies its links with historical and rarely-performed masterpieces.

Virginia Raggi
Virginia Raggi

Mayor, City of Rome and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Virginia is the first woman to become mayor of Rome after winning the 2016 municipal election with two-thirds of the vote. She is considered as a rising star of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), a party that she joined in 2011, two years before being elected to Rome’s city council. Called a talented debated by the Economist, Virginia vowed to end corruption, introduce a new level of transparency to the Roman government and revamp the city’s failing infrastructure. Virginia fiercely campaigned against the proposed amendment to the Italian constitution in the run-up to the 2016 constitutional referendum. A lawyer by training, she specialises in intellectual property and new technology.

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Continue to Selection process

Selection process

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE APPLICATION DEADLINE WAS MARCH 15. THE APPLICATION PROCESS IS NOW CLOSED

The European Young Leaders programme is a unique, inventive, and multi-stakeholder programme that aims to promote a European identity by engaging the continent’s most promising talents in initiatives that will shape Europe’s future.

The European Young Leaders represent the most promising European leadership from all over the continent and with a wide variety of backgrounds including: politics, business, civil society, academia, arts, science and the media.

The programme acts as a forum for those who have already established themselves at the forefront of their professions to meet, discuss and collaborate with their counterparts from other fields of expertise. Previous candidates include: government ministers, CEOs, Michelin-starred chefs, international film directors, and high profile journalists.

Since the launch of the programme, we have gradually taken steps to ensure the diversity and exceptional quality of its selection process. We have made sure that its comprehensive and competitive nature ensures the identification and selection of remarkable individuals.

We aim to select 40 European Young Leaders of diverse backgrounds in order to enable a broad exchange of ideas, creating the basis for a new generation of engaged European leaders.

SELECTION CRITERIA

  • Candidates must be between 30 and 40 years of age (born on or after 1 January 1982);
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state, the UK or of one of the 6 Balkan states currently on the path towards EU integration (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia);
  • Candidates should have established themselves at the highest levels of their chosen profession, or be on track to do so;
  • Candidates must be committed to serve society at large through noteworthy contributions and have demonstrated a record of significant achievements and outstanding professional experience;
  • Candidates are also evaluated based on their ability to contribute to the enrichment of the programme as a whole;
  • Candidates are required to be fluent in English as it is the working language of the programme.
  • Candidates must commit to participating in at least one seminar during the programme year.

To be considered for the 2022 selection process, all applications and nominations must be sent to: eyl40@friendsofeurope.org

Application deadline: Monday, 15 March 2021

To read in detail about the selection process, please click here

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