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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 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

Photo of Mariya Gabriel
Mariya Gabriel

European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth and European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Formerly European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel is currently responsible for the implementation of the future Horizon Europe programme and the development of a European Research Area. Previously, Gabriel was a Member of the European Parliament, active as Vice-President of the European People’s Party (EPP), and involved in a wide range of parliamentary committees, including acting as EPP Group coordinator for the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. Recipient of several international awards, she is passionate about initiatives related to young people, and has established six European information centres in Bulgaria.

Photo of Eva Maydell (née Paunova)
Eva Maydell (née Paunova)

President of the European Movement International, Member of the European Parliament and European Young Leader Alumna

Show more information on Eva Maydell (née Paunova)

Eva Maydell’s priorities focus on enhancing skills-creation and the use of innovation and technologies, supporting entrepreneurs and investments in Europe. In the European Parliament, she is a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy as well as the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. She is also a member of the Delegation for relations with Japan as well as the Delegation for relations with the US.

Eva is among the most active members of the European Parliament. Currently, she is EPP rapporteur on the Data Strategy. She was the main Parliament rapporteur on the Regulation on charges on cross-border payments as well as worked on several legislative files, part of the Digital Single Market Strategy – the e-Privacy Regulation, the Directive for the supply of digital content, the Regulation on portability, Digitising European industry and the European cloud initiative. She was also rapporteur for the EPP Group on the implementation of the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the New Skills Agenda and the Influence of technology on the future of the financial sector (FinTech).

Eva has been awarded the European Parliament’s MEP of the Year Award twice. She has also been
included in FT’s own ‘New Europe 100′ ranking of CEE’s emerging change-makers, European Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and others.

Monika Panayotova
Monika Panayotova

Deputy Minister, Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU 2018, 2019 European Young Leader

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Monika was Deputy Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU2018. She previously served as a Member of the European Parliament for the European People’s Party or EPP. Prior to that post, she was a Member of the Bulgarian Parliament, a Chairwoman of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds and a member of the Foreign Policy and Defence Committee. Before starting her political career, Monika worked for an NGO and spent time as a research fellow at the Economic Policy Institute in Sofia.

Vessela Tcherneva
Vessela Tcherneva

Deputy Director, European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), 2012 European Young Leader

Show more information on Vessela Tcherneva

Vessela is Spokesperson and Member of Cabinet for the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously, she was Director of the Bulgarian office of the European Foreign Policy Council and Programme Director of the Centre for Liberal Strategies. Between 2004 and 2006 she was Secretary of the International Commission on the Balkans, chaired by Giuliano Amato. She is Observing Editor of Foreign Policy – Bulgaria magazine, a position she has held since its launch in 2005.

Kristina Tsvetanova
Kristina Tsvetanova

Co-Inventor of BLITAB and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Kristina Tsvetanova

Kristina is an acclaimed Bulgarian tech entrepreneur. As co-inventor of BLITAB, the world’s first tactile tablet for blind and visually impaired people, Kristina has drawn the world’s attention to the role of digital innovation in easing people’s lives. Having cemented herself as a leader in the digital field promoting the needs of children, women and people with disabilities, her work has received wide recognition throughout the world. She was previously involved as an innovation consultant to the G7 for Technology, Research & Innovation, and was named Rising Innovator for 2017 by the EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Krasimira Velichkova
Krasimira Velichkova

Director, Bulgarian Donors' Forum, 2015-2016 European Young Leader

Show more information on Krasimira Velichkova

Krasimira has been the Director of the Bulgarian Donors’ Forum since 2007 – the only association of foundations and corporate donors in Bulgaria. The Forum has a leading role in the development of philanthropy and civil society in the country by advocating for a better legal and fiscal environment, advising corporate and individual donors, developing fundraising platforms, supporting NGOs to partner with donors, and working with the media to change public opinion towards philanthropy and volunteerism in society. Prior to this she was a development officer in “Altera Cultural” association and grants manager of the “Workshop for Civic Initiatives” foundation. Krasimira is experienced in organisational development strategies, fundraising for social and cultural projects, as well as developing and implementing social and cultural policies.  Krasimira is a vice-chair of the steering committee of DAFNE (Donors’ Associations and Foundations Networks in Europe).

Yuriy Vulkovsky
Yuriy Vulkovsky

Country Manager, Reach for Change, 2014 European Young Leader

Show more information on Yuriy Vulkovsky

Yuriy is a Country Manager for Bulgaria of the International Foundation “Reach for Change” which supports social innovators and social entrepreneurs in 18 countries at 3 continents. He has more than 20 years of experience in the non-governmental sector in Bulgaria and Europe working for the capacity building of the independent social and cultural organisations, as well fighting for government transparency and effectiveness. He believes that the change starts from bottom up and the innovation emerges from the periphery, not from the center. German Marshall Fund and Salzburg Global Seminar Alumni. Member of the Strategy Group of the European Initiative “A Soul for Europe”.

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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