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 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

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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

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

Una Mullally

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Meet the EYL40

Martijn Arets
Martijn Arets

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

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Martijn is an international expert and thinker in the field of emergence and development of the collaborative economy: sharing economy, gig economy, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. He spoke with over 500 representatives from platforms, government, trade unions and corporate organizations in 16 countries to explore the conditions under which platforms can contribute to a more inclusive society. As a bridge builder and independent professional outsider, he uses these insights and this network to get stakeholders together to address relevant issues in a constructive way. Martijn shares his knowledge in his blogs, books, as an advisor and keynote speaker. His background is in marketing and branding, and he has written the books ‘Brand Expedition, a journey visiting Europe’s most inspiring brands’,’Crowdfunding, beyond the hype’ and ‘Crowdfunding for Dummies’

Cristina Elena Batlan
Cristina Elena Batlan

Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Head of Design at Musette, 2013 European Young Leader

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Cristina is Founder, CEO and Head of Design at Musette, one of the leading fashion accessory companies in Romania. The brand is present all over the world, with stores in Paris, New York, Luxembourg, Beirut, Budapest, Bulgaria and Israel. In 2004, Cristina was named one of Romania’s “Top Successful Women” and obtained the Oskar Capital award in the “Promising Entrepreneur of the Year” category. In 2005 she launched a new brand, Cristhelen B, exclusive property of Musette. In 2011, she received the prestigious Entrepreneurship Prize at the Business Woman Gala and was named one of the 100 Romanian Successful Young Managers of the Year. She is also Founder of the Arena Leilor Foundation and a member of the International Dinners Club.

Remus Aurel Benta
Remus Aurel Benta

Chief Executive Officer at DAW Benta Romania, 2013 European Young Leader

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Remus is CEO of DAW Benta Romania, a leading company in the field of construction, transportation, real estate and property management. The Benta Group has extended its activities all throughout Eastern Europe and holds showrooms in over 40 different locations. Since 2001 Remus and the DAW Benta Group have been rewarded on numerous occasions with First Place in the Top Businesses and Businessmen lists of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In 2011 Remus was listed as one of the top 500 wealthiest people in Romania by Forbes Magazine.

Leendert de Voogd
Leendert de Voogd

Global Service Line Leader Social Intelligence Analytics at Ipsos, 2013 European Young Leader

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Leendert is Global Head of the Political and Social Practice of TNS, one of the world’s largest market research companies. From 2002 to 2007 he was Joint Managing Director of TNS Opinion, a co-ordination centre for multi-country studies based in Brussels. Leendert is a member of ESOMAR, a worldwide market, social and opinion research association. Over the last 15 years he has been in charge of the coordination of survey research in countries around the world for an important number of international institutions such as the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Parliament and the World Bank. He studied Political Science at Belgium’s Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) and also at Institut d’Etudes politiques / Sciences Po Paris.

Josep-Maria Gascón
Josep-Maria Gascón

Founder & CEO of Vitaes Talent, 2013 European Young Leader

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Josep-Maria is the Founder and CEO of Vitaes Talent, a company that provides fact-based insights on macroeconomic data and markets to help high-level decision-makers understand how the world, the society and the economy are evolving and asses business options and risks. Josep-Maria is former Director of Strategy and Competitive Intelligence within Ministry of Business of the Government of Catalonia. Previously he was Head of Finance Excellence at the chemical giant Solvay and one of his leading lawyers. He has held international senior positions in all continents in general management, business strategy and legal & tax advice.Josep-Maria won the ‘40 under Forty’ Award, as one of the the best young lawyers in the Iberian Peninsula. He was also appointed as ‘Business Ambassador’ by the Government of Catalonia, for his role attracting investment to the region. Josep-Maria is the President of the “World Chemical Summit” and also a Professor of Resource Management at the GBSB Global Business School. He is a frequent speaker and publishes articles in international and national media about leadership, organisational behaviour, change management and geopolitics.

Rabah Ghezali
Rabah Ghezali

Director, European Legislative Affairs, European Government Affairs and Public Advocacy at NYSE Euronext, 2013 European Young Leader

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Rabah is Director, European Legislative Affairs, European Government Affairs and Public Advocacy at NYSE Euronext as well as Adjunct Professor of Economics at Sciences-Po Paris. Rabah has had a successful diplomatic and legal career having worked as a counselor for major corporations and States. He holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Cambridge and a Master of Laws from the University of Oxford. Rabah is also a Research Fellow at the Center for Analysis and Proposals for Middle East and North Africa (CapMENA) and is a founding member of the Transatlantic Network 2020. He is a Member of the Young Atlanticist Group of the Atlantic Council and is a UN Alliance of Civilizations Fellow.

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Jakob Haesler

Co-Founder Project Alloy, 2013 European Young Leader

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Prior to founding Project Alloy, Jakob was the CEO and Co-Founder of Tinyclues SAS, a Paris-based software startup with the objective of industrialising datamining on Big Data with the help of advanced machine learning algorithms in a Cloud Computing environment. Previously he was a partner and consultant at McKinsey & Company in Germany and France where he worked on topics ranging from Banking to Public Sector Reform to Global Public Health issues, notably the creation and distribution of child HIV treatments. Prior to McKinsey he briefly worked at the World Bank. He holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science from the University of St. Gallen. Jakob is also a founding partner of the “Cercle du Leadership”.

Fabian Heilemann
Fabian Heilemann

Founder & CEO of Sky & Sand, 2013 European Young Leader

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Fabian founded the leading German couponing company DailyDeal in 2009. To date he still leads DailyDeal together with his co-founder and brother. In private, he invests as a business angel in technology start-ups through his holding Heilemann Ventures. Before founding DailyDeal, Fabian worked for various German law firms and as a business consultant for Booz & Co. Prior to that, he passed the First Bar Exam of the State of Hamburg with distinctions and submitted a PhD thesis in Corporate Law at Heidelberg Law School. He was a visiting student at Santa Clara University and Stanford University, CA, USA and founded the Entrepreneurs Club at Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, Germany.

Lars Hinrichs

Founder & CEO of HackFwd, 2013 European Young Leader

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Lars is Founder and CEO of HackFwd, a pre-seed venture capital company investing in technical talent across Europe. He is best known for founding the worldwide social networking website XING, dedicated to cultivating business contacts. He is one of the most successful web entrepreneurs in Germany and has received several awards, including Germany’s leading award for print and online media, the Lead Award, the 2004 German Internet Prize of the Federal Ministry of Economics and was elected Germany’s most important web entrepreneur in 2008 by the Startups Initiative. Lars is also an honorary member of the German Committee of UNICEF.

Anna Król
Anna Król

Founder & President of the Board, Go Culture, 2013 European Young Leader

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Anna is Founder and President of the Board of Go Culture, the first professional Polish agency dealing with the implementation and communication of cultural projects. As such she is responsible for promotional campaigns and projects and has planned and dealt with the communication aspects of not only publishing houses, festivals, concerts, social and educational events, but also of well-known international consumer brands. Four of the projects she carried out were awarded the Golden Clip prize in a contest organised by the Public Relations Companies Association for the best public relations campaigns. She is also a lecturer at the Polish Open University and an expert in the field of professional theater.

Axelle Lemaire
Axelle Lemaire

Global Head, Terra Numerata, 2013 European Young Leader

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Axelle’s current position at Terra Numerata. sees her heading the growth of this unique, open platform aiming to bring together notable digital players. With more than 70 partners including startups and established technology companies, Terra Numerata is a unique, open platform aiming to bring together notable digital players. Previously a Socialist Party Member of the French Parliament, she was elected in 2012 as a Member of the European Affairs Committee and Secretary for the Bills Committee. After working as a lawyer and law researcher at University, her keen interest in politics brought her to the House of Commons, where she spent several years working for a Labour MP.

Photo of André Loesekrug-Pietri
André Loesekrug-Pietri

Director of JEDI, former special advisor to the French Minister of Defence, Founder of ACAPITAL, 2013 European Young Leader

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André is a French-German entrepreneur who has held leadership positions in private equity, government and industry. Starting as assistant to the CEO of Aerospatiale-Airbus, he then spent 15 years in private equity and venture capital, including 10 years with China, investing in European companies with global ambitions. In 2017, he became special advisor to the French Minister of Defence, responsible in particular for European defence policy as well as technology and innovation. He is currently in charge of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI), aiming to accelerate Europe’s leadership in disruptive innovations. He is also a lecturer at SciencesPo and a Non-Resident Fellow of the German Marshal Fund. His professional experience is complemented by his expertise in aerospace – he is a private pilot and a Colonel with the French Air Force People’s Reserve.

Mika Mäkeläinen
Mika Mäkeläinen

Serial entrepreneur and CEO of GTW Group Ltd, 2013 European Young Leader

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Mika is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of GTW Group Ltd, a management company that regroups a wide range of other companies specialising in diverse fields such as sales consultancy, staffing, games, web-services, e-commerce, marketing and IT services. Mika is a member of the Finnish Association of Professional Board Members and a partner of Boardman which is a leading network of Finnish corporate governance specialists focusing on the development of good corporate governance and board work in Finland. In 2011 he was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Finland as well as one of the 100 most influential IT opinion leaders in Finland, and in 2012 he was named Young Leader and Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Network of Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs.

Photo of Elena Alfaro Martinez
Elena Alfaro Martinez

Global Head of Data & Open Innovation in BBVA Group, 2013 European Young Leader

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Elena is Global Head of Data & Open Innovation in BBVA Group, where she leads the Big Data/Smart Cities Global Initiative aimed at creating new urban services based on smart data and information management. For this, she has obtained international recognition through various publications in the media. She has played an active role in the development of telecommunications in EMEA and LATAM in the business development area, and subsequently expanded her career as an expert in the field of innovation. Elena holds a degree in Economics & Business Management from the University of Madrid and a BA in Business Studies from the University of Sunderland in the UK.

Adolfo Mesquita Nunes
Adolfo Mesquita Nunes

Partner, Gama Glória, 2013 European Young Leader

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Adolfo was the Portuguese Secretary of State of Tourism till 2015. Prior to this he was a Member of the Portuguese Parliament’s Committees on Ethics, Communication and Citizenship; Budget, Finance and Public Administration; and Monitoring Measures of the Financial Assistance Programme to Portugal. He has extensive experience in the legal sector, having served as a lawyer, consultant and advisor to various public institutions and private firms. In 2004 he was Head of Cabinet for the Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning. He holds a Master’s degree in Law and Political Science from the University of Lisbon where he defended his thesis on The Urgency in Public Procurement Litigation.

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Continue to Selection process

Selection process

Due to Covid-19, no European Young Leaders class will be selected for 2021. Application for the class of 2022 will open in the spring of 2021.

The EYL40 programme is a unique, multi-stakeholder programme which aims to promote a sense of European identity by bringing together forty of the brightest European leaders every year and engaging them in initiatives that will shape Europe’s future. 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. Additionally, in 2020, the programme will include 6 Young Leaders from the Western Balkan region. In doing so, we aim to promote structural dialogue across the continent that will foster better mutual understanding.

Since the launch of the programme in 2012, 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. Candidates can either apply or be nominated for the selection process of the programme.

Selection criteria:

  • Candidates must be between 30 and 40 years of age;
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state or of one of the 6 Balkan states currently on the path to EU integration (Serbia, Kosovo*, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro);
  • Candidates should have established themselves 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.

*references to Kosovo in this document 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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