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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

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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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Continue to Meet the EYL

Meet the EYL40

Photo of Xavier Damman
Xavier Damman

Founder & CEO of OpenCollective and Co-Founder of Storify, 2017 European Young Leader

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Xavier is an engineer in computer science who is passionate about the digital renaissance. In 1999, while still at secondary school, he founded Tribal, a site that gathered student content from around Belgium for publication in a magazine that was distributed to 30,000 students nationwide. Ten years later, he co-founded Storify, a social media curation platform that enables users to create stories or timelines using content from social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Storify is now used by top brands, organisations and publishers around the world, including CNN, the New York Times, the United Nations and the White House. More recently, he co-founded OpenCollective, a company that enables groups to collect and spend money transparently without having to create a new bank account.

Sébastien de Halleux
Sébastien de Halleux

COO at Saildrone, 2018 European Young Leader

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Sébastien is responsible for the operation of Saildrone, a company revolutionising data collection at sea through the use of wind and solar powered drones. Saildrone’s mission is to quantify planetary systems like extreme weather, global fisheries and carbon fluxes. Sébastien also cofounded Playfish, which was one of the largest and fastest growing social gaming companies with over 300mn players, before being acquired by video game giant Electronic Arts (EA) in 2009. Sébastien has also been the recipient of the Tech 100 and Tech Fellow Awards.

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.

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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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