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Meet the next generation of young leaders destined to shape Europe’s future in our new EYL40 Class of 2022.

From champions of the arts and tech entrepreneurs, to leading activists and Olympic athletes, meet the new young leaders as they are revealed each day over the next two weeks. Follow on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Bold leadership, ground-breaking ideas, unparalleled passion …

We’ve learned time and again that the challenges of the 21st century and of our ever complex world, cannot be addressed using the rulebooks of the past. The world is screaming for a new type of leadership and a renewed social contract in which the private sector, local and multilateral institutions, a citizens can collaborate and be the drivers of change.

Today’s leaders may look back in time for inspiration, but they must lead with innovation.

The European Young Leaders represent an alternative infrastructure of leadership, a new generation of leaders able to inspire action and generate change. Their passion, their diversity of backgrounds and opinions, and their innovative thinking together create the right formula for generating fresh ideas to build a more forward-thinking Europe.

Our European leaders provide alternative perspectives from outside the institutional and political frameworks to EU decisionmakers writing the rule book.

The European Young Leaders also play the essential role of helping to reconnect people with and rebuild trust in politics by engaging a wider community around key EU policy issues that need a whole economy whole society approach to progress fast. They are scientists, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, astronomers. They are citizens and their thinking is not bound by multilateral or frameworks, or burocracy.

They help take Europe out of Brussels, in their own countries and cities. They are facilitating citizens’ participation in the creation of a more equal, innovative and inclusive Europe and help build a European identity.

The programme in the next years will take a new localism lens, bringing together these thinkers and leaders to act on some of the key issues affecting Europe’s future: the green and digital transformation, strengthening of our democracy, relations with our neighbours, increasing power sharing, and building a more gender and diverse Europe.

Succeeding in these policies together and getting more citizens engaged in European elections will be our litmus test.

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

Melisa Erkurt
Melisa Erkurt

Journalist, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Die Chefredaktion and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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An Austrian journalist and author, Melisa founded @die_chefredaktion, an Instagram-based medium that produces diverse journalism by and for young people. Recognising that traditional media is too far removed from teenagers and young people, the account offers younger generations a new type of interactive journalism and has enjoyed tremendous success. As Editor-in-Chief, she leads a young editorial team in the production and publication of journalistic contributions and video reports on social and political topics. Melisa also hosts the Ö1 Sprechstunde podcast and writes two weekly columns for Falter and taz magazines on education policy and equal opportunities. Her report, “Generation haram – why schools have to learn to give everyone a voice”, on discrimination and restrictive culture in Austrian schools for Biber magazine is based on two years of research and first-hand experience as a former teacher. Generating significant public interest, the report went on to win Story of the Year at the Austrian Journalism Days.

Federico Fabbrini
Federico Fabbrini

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

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Federico is an Italian academic, who currently teaches at the School of Law & Government at DCU, where he is also the Director of the Law Research Center and established the Brexit Institute to explore the implications of Brexit on government, business and society from an academic and policy perspective. A qualified attorney, he has previously held academic positions in the Netherlands and Denmark and been a visiting scholar in France, Australia, Japan and the United States. Federico has authored five monographs, one textbook and over 100 articles and book chapters on European law and policy, in addition to policy reports at the request of the European Parliament and the Presidency of the Eurogroup. He has also edited numerous books and special issues for journals. In recognition of his contributions to European scholarship, Federico was awarded the European Charlemagne Prize Fellowship and knighted by the President of Italy.

Andrea Fernández Benéitez
Andrea Fernández Benéitez

Secretary of Equality for the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Andrea is a Spanish lawyer and politician, who currently serves as the Secretary of Equality for the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), the government’s ruling party. As a Member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, she is the Deputy Spokesperson of the Justice Commission and the First Vice President of the Commission for the audit of democratic quality, the fight against corruption and institutional and legal reforms. She is also committed to NGOs which provide free legal and psychological assistance to people who are victims of abuse and sexual violence. Andrea previously practiced corporate law and has held various positions within different youth organisations, including as a member of the Permanent Commission of the School Council of Castile and León, and as the secretary-general of the Autonomous Federation of Student Associations (FADAE).

Mato Franković
Mato Franković

Mayor of Dubrovnik and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Mato is a Croatian politician, who currently serves as the Mayor of Dubrovnik and a Member of the Croatian parliament. As mayor, he has introduced key projects, including ‘Respect The City’, ‘Plastic Smart Cities’ and ‘Smart Parking Dubrovnik’, to manage the city’s overtourism, increase the quality of life for its citizens and develop a more sustainable city. Mato is equipped with a wealth of experience in the tourism industry and also sits on the parliament’s Tourism Committee. A longstanding and active member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Mato is the Chairman of the HDZ branch in Dubrovnik and has previously served as the party’s youth president of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and national youth vice president. He is the former director of the capital city’s ACI Marina, which received multiple awards and yielded outstanding financial results under his leadership, and he previously oversaw the regional coordination of ACI’s activities in the southern Adriatic region.

Liza Gashi
Liza Gashi

Kosovar Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Kosovar innovator and entrepreneur, Liza is shaping public discourse around diaspora and civic engagement. As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, she advocates for the advancement of Kosovo’s policies, legislation and institutional approaches regarding diaspora engagement. She founded the Kosovar committee for the United World Colleges (UWC), a global movement that promotes education as a force to unite people, nationals and cultures, where she served as chairwoman for over a decade. Liza is well known as the Founder and former executive director of GERMIN, an NGO that uses technology and virtual channels to connect and engage with the diaspora community to advance the socio-economic development and democratisation of the Western Balkan region. Additionally, Liza is also the Co-Founder and former managing director of KosovoDiaspora.org, a crowdsourcing digital engagement and diplomacy platform that connects Kosovars to the world and vice versa to promote Kosovo’s statehood internationally.

Iva Gumnishka
Iva Gumnishka

Founder and CEO of Humans in the Loop and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Bulgarian social entrepreneur, Iva is the Founder and CEO of Humans in the Loop, which provides remote online employment to conflict-affected and displaced people, such as refugees, in the field of dataset annotation and model validation for computer vision and artificial intelligence. The award-winning social enterprise has provided work and training opportunities for over 500 people in Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen, and maintains a dedicated programme to promote the economic inclusion of women. Humans in the Loop is part of MIT SOLVE’s ‘Good Jobs and Inclusive Entrepreneurship’ cohort of social enterprises and has also been awarded by the Global Innovators programme of the Dubai 2020 World Expo. Iva is passionate about promoting the role of humans in AI pipelines and the mitigation of bias in AI systems through diverse and representative data. She is also part of Forbes 30 under 30 in her country.

Audrey Hanard
Audrey Hanard

Chair of the Board of Directors at bpost and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Audrey is a Belgian businesswoman with a wealth of experience in advising corporate, government and philanthropic clients on a range of development and social impact topics. As an Associate Partner at Dalberg Advisors, she works with clients to improve education, employment and health outcomes worldwide through the development, implementation and impact evaluation of inclusive development strategies. Audrey currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors at bpost, leading the Belgian postal operator’s transition from a mail to parcel network. She is the Chair of the Board at Be education, an organisation that supports the improvement of education in Belgium. Audrey is also the Co-Founder and former operational director of Spectralys Biotech, a start-up that provides a unique protein analysis technology for the biopharmaceutical industry. She was previously the president of Groupe Vendredi, a think tank focused on societal issues in Belgium, and head of philanthropy at Telos Impact, a venture philanthropy firm.

Katinka Hosszú
Katinka Hosszú

Competitive swimmer and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’, Katinka is a competitive swimmer from Hungary. The three-time Olympic gold medallist, nine-time World Champion and 14-time European Champion holds 96 medals and aims to be the first swimmer with 100. Katinka is the only swimmer ever to hold all five individual medley world records at the same time. Recognised as the most versatile swimmer in the world, she has been named Female Swimmer of the Year by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) four times and Hungarian Sportswoman of the Year seven times. Katinka founded the Iron Swim Club in Budapest for recreational and professional swimmers, preparing athletes of all ages for domestic and international competitions. The swimming icon currently competes for her own team, Team Iron, as its captain and is a Founding Member of the International Swimming League, an annual team-based swimming competition established by a group of athletes.

Justas Janauskas
Justas Janauskas

Serial entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Vinted and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Justas is a Lithuanian entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Lithuania’s first unicorn start-up, Vinted. The mobile shopping platform for second-hand fashion is Europe’s largest online customer-to-customer (C2C) marketplace in Europe. Operational in 15 countries with over 45mn users, the platform has continued to experience tremendous growth, as consumption patterns continue to shift against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Justas served as Vinted’s CEO for nearly a decade. A serial angel investor who offers his expertise and financial support to young entrepreneurs, Justas has backed a wide range of projects, including Memby, an after-school online learning platform, the sustainable Local Ocean shrimp farm, as well as Dogo, a mobile app for dog training that has been named Apple’s App of the Day in countries across North America, Europe and Australia.

Tea Jarc
Tea Jarc

President of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Youth Committee and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Tea is a grassroots youth activist from Slovenia, who campaigns for social justice and actively engages in various social movements. As President of the ETUC Youth Committee, she leads the organisation in its mission to amplify the voice of the European youth workforce. Tea is also the President of Sindikat Mladi plus, a Slovenian youth trade union that represents working and unemployed Slovenian young people and students, including high school students, and seeks to protect their social and labour rights. A freelance educator, trainer and facilitator, Tea also hosts a podcast, which covers labour issues and explores labour policy alternatives that prioritise the well-being of citizens and the environment.

Toms Jurjevs
Toms Jurjevs

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

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Toms is a Latvian entrepreneur in the fintech industry. He is the Founder and CEO of Sun Finance Group, a fintech company that operates a user-friendly online and mobile lending platform. One of the fastest growing companies in Europe, Sun Finance has expanded its operations beyond Latvia to Denmark, Poland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Vietnam and Sweden and secured over €1.2bn in loans to clients who have been typically unable to access funding. He has also launched two additional successful businesses, supporting their growth in the start-up stage and development as international multi-million companies. Toms is also the Founder and Chairman of the Council at the Alternative Financial Services Association of Latvia, which connects fintech and other companies in order to promote responsible practices and cooperation in the sector.

Nektarios Kalantzis
Nektarios Kalantzis

President of the European Local Leaders and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Nektarios Kalantzis

Nektarios is a Greek politician with a passion for good local governance. He currently serves as the President of the European Local Leaders, a committee of young European politicians that have been elected at the regional or local level. The initiative aims to promote creativity and share pioneering ideas among the new generation of locally elected officials throughout cities across Europe, with a focus on climate change, environmental protection, smart cities and new technologies. Nektarios is also the President of the Union of Young Local Councillors of Greece, which brings together newly elected regional and municipal councillors, governors, deputy mayors and mayors in Greece and organises events on the role of local governments in the development of smarter and greener cities. He is also the Municipal Councillor of the Pallini Municipality in Greece, prior to which he has served as a member of the Municipal Council.

Photo of Benjamina Karić
Benjamina Karić

Mayor of Sarajevo and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Bosnian politician, Benjamina is the Mayor of the City of Sarajevo, the second woman to serve the office in the history of the city, and the Vice-President of the Social Democratic Party. As mayor, she has spearheaded a number of green infrastructure projects, including a large park in the heart of Sarajevo and a bike path that connects the city to the nearby town of Pale. Benjamina is the youngest doctor of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the first post-war doctor of classical Roman law. An Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Travnik, she has authored over 50 publications books, articles, reviews and translations from Latin to Bosnian. Benjamina is also a Founding Member of BATHINVS, an association which studies and promotes the Illyrian heritage and ancient and classical civilisations.

Leszek Konrad Jażdżewski
Leszek Konrad Jażdżewski

Editor-in-Chief of Liberté! and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Leszek Konrad Jażdżewski

A Polish writer, speaker and activist, Leszek is the Editor-in-Chief of Liberté!, a journal which he founded over a decade ago to promote freedom, share ideas and counter populism. He is the co-creator of Freedom Games, an interdisciplinary event that gathers 4,000 attendees and 350 speakers to discuss the key challenges Western societies must face in the 21st century. Leszek is also the Founder and CEO of Bookme, an app which makes reading internet-friendly. He currently serves on the Council of European Forum for New Ideas and recently completed a policy fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, where his work focused on how the narrative of change could counter the rise of populism in EU member states, overcome the European identity crisis and strengthen transnational governance.

Pavlos Kontides
Pavlos Kontides

Competitive sailor, Olympic medallist and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Pavlos Kontides

A competitive sailor from Cyprus, Pavlos is an Olympic medallist and the first and only athlete to win an Olympic medal for the country. Following his historic win, he went on to place second at the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) World Championship and then earned the title of World Champion for two consecutive years, as well as European Champion. Pavlos has been recognised as the Cyprus Athlete of the Year seven times. He is a true role model for young athletes and actively supports the sporting community in his country. Ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Pavlos launched the #TowardsTokyo campaign to financially support five promising Cypriot athletes in their preparations to qualify for the national Olympics team, four of which were successful in reaching Tokyo.

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Selection process


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 a new generation of European leaders from all over the continent and various 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 to enable a broad exchange of ideas, creating the basis for a new generation of engaged European leaders.



  • Candidates must be between 30 and 40 years of age (born on or after 1 January 1983).
  • 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 of the two EYL seminars during the programme year.

Please click HERE for the detailed Selection Guidelines 2023.

Should you have any questions or need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at eyl40@friendsofeurope.org.

*The current crisis has prompted us to open up the programme to Ukraine as a pilot initiative. In future years we hope to find a way of including more people who are not EU nationals/citizens but are contributing positively to current Europe (e.g., candidates from our neighbourhood countries and refugees).
**References to Kosovo here are used without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UN Security Council resolution 1244/99 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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